She was born and brought up in Lucknow and right from her school days, she wanted to be an actress. When she was in school, she won the Miss School and Miss Lucknow titles. However, her journey to the modelling world was a struggle because of her conservative background and her family's reservations on the showbiz industry. After she completed her graduation, she worked as an airhostess and was simultaneously looking out for modelling assignments. She bagged a few Malayalam ads and soon, She made her film debut too.
She made her debut in the 2011 film Vaadamalli. Same year, she starred in two more Malayalam movies Bangkok Summer and Sandwich opposite Unni Mukundan and Kunchako Boban respectively.
Richa Panai won the Asianet Film Awards for Best New Face of the Year '12 (Female).
She was next seen with Allari Naresh in her first Telugu film Yamudiki Mogudu.