Profile with Rakhi Mehra
Rakhi Mehra (India & Lady Margaret Hall 2001) is currently the Managing Director and Founding Partner of Micro Home Solutions, a social housing enterprise that she co-founded in 2009. After the Rhodes scholarship, Rakhi went on to earn her MBA from Harvard Business School in 2009, and was awarded the Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Fellowship in 2011. She currently lives in Delhi with her husband, Marco, and their daughter, Nora.
Rhodes Project: What is your favorite thing to do in Delhi?
Rakhi Mehra: As crazy as it sounds, it’s mountain biking and having a chilled lassi after.
Rhodes Project: Is that your sport?
Rakhi Mehra: Not really, I’ve been a competitive swimmer. My husband got me into mountain biking when we were vacationing in Italy and I loved it. Now in Delhi, there is a culture of training for triathlon that I seem to be gently enticed into and have done a few races. It is addictive. It is also one great way for Marco and me to spend time together!
Rhodes Project: What was the first job you ever held?
Rakhi Mehra: My first was job was a summer internship at Merrill Lynch.
Rhodes Project: What was the last book you read for pleasure?
Rakhi Mehra: It’s a graphic novel called The Photographer, and it’s set in Afghanistan during the Cold War.
Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Rakhi Mehra: A chartered accountant.
Rhodes Project: I have to ask you why.
Rakhi Mehra: When you are in a joint family where your great-grandfather, your grandfather, and your father are chartered accountants, you live and breathe bills. I enjoyed going down the street to the lady who was roasting corn, and doing her math and accounting for her—how many rupees she spent on buying the corn, cooking, and flipping it over. For me, anything to do with accounting, math, transactions at a very small scale was very exciting.
Rhodes Project: Did you ever think you would just get married and stay home to take care of the kids?
Rakhi Mehra: I don’t think that was an option. My mother who made that choice made me strongly believe that I should be financially independent.
Rhodes Project: What is the best part of your job right now? What do you like most in what you’re doing?
Rakhi Mehra: What I enjoy is the fact that my job brings out the best of me. I can pursue what I believe in and am passionate about. Trying to make a difference in the government and the development sector of social housing is tough and exciting. It keeps me up at night, but also wakes me up in the morning.
Rhodes Project: And what is the most challenging part of what you’re doing?
Rakhi Mehra: The challenge is trying to separate having a professional life in terms of what we’re passionate about in the social sector and enjoying a happy private life in terms of not being all-consumed by the work we do. My husband and I work together, and we have a twenty month-old daughter. And that is the biggest challenge—not to get overwhelmed with the task at hand.
Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young woman who is just entering your field?
Rakhi Mehra: It would be to go travel. Design your travels that give you a chance to experience different cultures, hear another’s perspective and interact with people with interests different to your own. My journeys to Bangladesh, Europe, South Africa have inspired me to do the work I am doing today. To a young person, I would say, don’t be in a hurry to make a career decision. Go travel and explore—you’ll learn so much about yourself and what motivates you.
Rhodes Project: What do you do only for you and no one else?
Rakhi Mehra: This is a hard one after you’ve had a baby as time is blurred. But before Nora I’d make sure to take time out for a swim. Now, if I were to do something for myself, it would be to hang out in a bookstore.
Rhodes Project: And what brings you the most joy in life?
Rakhi Mehra: Early mornings with Nora are precious.