My friend – Meghna Vakada

Meghna Vakada. Entrepreneur. Restaurateur. Music programmer. And most importantly my voice of reason.

She epitomizes ‘good things come in small packages‘. And boy does she pack a punch. We met many years ago while sitting outside our kids classrooms for orientation when they were in kindergarten together. Since then we have met, talked, shared chai often and done many school pick ups and drops. Somewhere along the way she became so much more than a friend. Calling her ‘my bff’ or ‘like a sister’ would be cliched. And neither of us do cliches! So I am just going to say – what we share is a class apart 🙂

My journey of the last few years can not really be told with any credibility without Meghna being a huge part of it. Her very methodical and logical reasoning has often given me focus and direction with not just business matters related to ArtByAarohi but also to personal conundrums.
My first exhibition of The Poonchh Collection happened at her restaurant. My sounding board for every idea, creative or otherwise happens with her. She is my harshest critic and absolutely generous with her love and respect.
So without much ado let me introduce you to Meghna!

What did you study at college?

I did my bachelors degree in Biotechnology followed by Computer Science.

Bacchus in full swing

How did you get into music curation?

Fate & timing is what I would say …
After my 4year corporate stint as a software analyst at Motorola I took a break when I had my first baby.
It was at this time that I got interested in my husbands line of work. That was my 1st step into the world of restaurants. The more I learnt about the inner  workings of the business the more I got drawn to it. By now we were blessed with our second child. At this time I took a conscious decision to quit work and stay home to be a hands on mom.
Once both the kids were a little older I had sometime on hand but not enough to get back to a full time gig.
That’s when I started actively helping my husband Sridhar Vakada (a hotelier and a restaurateur) in his new project F&B. F&B had a this little bar space in it called BACCHUS. Sridhar is in many ways my mentor and partner in crime  🙂
The idea behind the concept of the space Bacchus was a small warm space that invited like minded people. An invitation with open arms and an open mind where there was no discrimination or bias in any form or shape. A place where people connected with each other based on their mutual appreciation of a particular kind of music, performance art showcase or a stand up comedy gig over some drinks and good laughter.
The most heartwarming thing that I have personally heard and heard often at that from guests was – ” …you can walk into Bacchus any day alone but you never once felt alone after you came in” 🙂
Soon I was curating events along with some of the loveliest people in the scene.
Krunk (Sohail Arora) & me curated BLIVE!  A event series where I had the privilege of hosting some of the most awesome gigs with genuine artists in the circuit from across the globe. Artists who once came into our space became a part of the family and helped push the scene further… It was like we were all in it together !!
– Comedian Sandeep Rao and Sanjay Mantaklata started the 1st ever regular and dedicated comedy show in the city with us called SNAP NIGHT. 9yrs ago we were showcasing artists and comedian who are now big names in the circuit.
Brinda Jacob Janvir (Studio of movement arts & therapy) and I collaborated using the space of the venue in various ways having complete creative freedom just to explore how far an idea can be seen through and this resulted in some very interesting performance art pieces.
– And last but not the least we started the legendary Wednesday DNB nights with Vachan Chinnappa .
Even today when I meet people we sigh over what crazy nights we had pulled off back in the day. Nights we started with only a handful people on the floor to nights when we had to shut the gate as the place could not take in anymore people !!! 🙂 The biggest takeaway from the BACCHUS experience was the camaraderie. We made this amazing connection and we were all in it together -be it the guest, the staff or even me. Everyone wanted the space to genuinely do well and that is really something rare ! 🙂
That’s how I got into the world of alternative music and events 🙂

Quiet evenings as well at Bacchus

What was it like to shift from music to restaurants?

It was a huge mental shift for sure. I had to get over the unfortunate heartbreaking closure of Bacchus and then to get back to a whole new environment of running a restaurant. BARLEY & GRAPES CAFE actually came as a blessing in disguise and  with its own challenges.
It was here that I truly got my hands dirty so to speak. I learnt the end to end of the business from supply chain, vendors to the end consumer and that was an extremely gratifying experience! That followed our new venture which a just a few months old venture ANDHRA KAFE.  I discovered I LOVE doing what I do now just as much. I guess because I constantly feel I am a work in progress every day. Learning something new & trying out something different is what keeps me going … And makes me tick And I absolutely LOVE IT  !!!

Barley and Grapes

Barley and Grapes

Would you call your self an entrepreneur or a restaurateur

Let’s just say I would like to believe I think like an entrepreneur but am a Restaurateur at heart  !! 🙂

What does it take to run a restaurant?
Passion. A lot of it … 🙂 and patience. It’s a very human oriented business. I would say the key is to be a people person not only for your guest but more so with your team. You have to be able to lead by example and empower, harness and grow a persons ability to run a restaurant successfully.

What is work life balance to you?
For me I guess it is organic transitions – life and work must not be in opposite side of ring. Its an intricate weave that makes life work for an individual. So I guess it’s living each moment being aware, to get inspirations from day to day life, to never loose curiosity and to constantly keep learning a lesson from what work or life throws at you – that empowers you to create a work life balance. You have to be innovate constantly, ready to solve a roadblock and not get bogged down trying to balance a particular situation. I guess once you have that mindset balance comes naturally as a byproduct 🙂

Andhra Kafe

Could you draw parallels between business and life as you see it?

Like I mentioned before, for me I guess work, life and business all in totality make me well …Me!
To live life figuring out what values you grew up with and what you inculcate over a period of time from your own journey. To making mistakes and being brutally honest about those, to take total ownership of them so that you can move ahead. That is learning a valuable life lesson.
And most of all living with integrity, an abundance of empathy and patience. An effort to try to truly understand people, to not being judgmental and accept shortcomings. But to  never ever accept cutting corners. To strive to be the best version of you for you. These are some of the fundamental parallels I draw between business and life.

Which begs the questions -Favorite drink, Book and Movie?

Beer, Bridges of Madison County and Schindler’s list

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