- Pittsburgh Campus
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Everybody’s bestie thrives in business and dreams of Bollywood.
She’ll be your friend. In fact, call her “Bestie Meg.”
That’s how Meghna Hingorani referred to herself when she was the Student Cafe Executive Officer (SCEO) of Saxbys coffee shop in the Cathedral of Learning last spring. She called her teammates and customers “bestie,” too — and even used the term when interviewing for the job with executives in the multimillion dollar company.
The SCEO program is part of Saxbys’ Experiential Learning Platform, which offers undergraduate college students a chance to gain real business management experience for one semester. Students get corporate training and support for questions as needed, but otherwise it’s hands-off. The Philadelphia-based company opened two locations on Pitt’s campus in 2021, at Hillman Library and the Cathedral, and the first Student CEOs took the reins that fall.
Hingorani, a finance major, received a salary and cooperative education course credit, enabling her to devote full-time attention to the café for the spring term. She managed it entirely, overseeing day-to-day operations and staff and spearheading administrative tasks like maintaining inventory of food and beverage ingredients, scheduling deliveries, managing the budget and promoting the shop on social media. She found that “bestie culture” built rapport among staff and customers, and also helped her focus on what was important when things got stressful — like when delivery delays meant the shop was out of tater tots for a bestselling sandwich three days in a row.
“‘Bestie’ makes you remember relationships,” she said. “Plus it’s a form of inclusivity and can refer to anyone regardless of pronouns.”
As an international student from India, inclusivity was paramount when Hingorani was choosing a university in the United States. Her aunt, Archana Hingorani, is a visiting professor in the Katz Business School’s accelerated MBA program, and at first Hingorani wanted to go somewhere no one in her family had been. Pitt turned out to be the best match, offering academics and affordability, and she quickly found a diverse friend group representing multiple ethnicities, countries of origin and perspectives.
Still, there are things Hingorani misses about home. She hails from Mumbai, a lively city with a population of 21 million, dwarfing Pittsburgh’s bustle 70 times over. Needing more noise in the “stone quiet ’Burgh,” Hingorani always keeps earbuds in while walking around campus or studying in the library, piping in the familiar sounds of her favorite Bollywood music. In her apartment, she might flip on her favorite film, one she’s watched at least 50 times: “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” (“This Youth is Crazy”), about four friends who diverge to follow separate careers but eventually find their way back to each other. Hingorani never gets bored of heart-warming life lessons told through the colorful song and dance characteristic of popular Bollywood movies. It’s a passion, she says, and a reminder of home.
A sense of home also influenced her Saxbys work. She created the first team member Drink of the Week featuring a shot of chai — a tea native to India that she remembers her grandmother drinking every day while she was growing up. Hingorani launched the Drink of the Week to brew buzz among customers and involve employees in creating the menu. Each new drink — such as a thin mint cold brew or Nutella hot chocolate — sold well the week it was featured and thereafter, boosting profit overall.
Hingorani hopes her SCEO experience and those memorable Bollywood storylines will come together someday; she dreams of eventually using her skills to help produce films. With besties by her side along the way, of course.
“My biggest fear is losing relationships, and my biggest strength is how I value them,” Hingorani says. “Goals are important, but relationships are most important.”
— Liberty Ferda, photography by Mike Drazdzinski