Universally considered one among the world media’s most well-known icons, Time magazine is held in high esteem by many, and read by countless millions across the globe. The venerable magazine recently released its 2016 list of the 100 most influential people on the planet, an annual choice listing of achievers who have carved a place for themselves under this sun, drawn from myriad careers and professions. The list, apropos, is peppered with quite a few Indians, who have made their mark on our world of today. The editorial team of NRI Achievers curates that list to bring you some profiles of the Indian crème-de-la-crème, reproduced here just as they were featured in the magazine.
The TIME 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE was first published in the year 1999 in response to a lively debate that was then under way among American academics, politicians, and journalists, naming the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Five years on, given the high popularity of the event, Time decided to make it an annual feature in 2004. Thus the “Time 100,” is today an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, as assembled by the objective and subjective sensibilities of the American news magazine. Though appearing on the list is oft seen as a honour, Time makes it clear that entrants are recognized solely for changing the world, regardless of the consequences of their actions. The final list is exclusively chosen by Time editors with nominations coming from TIME 100 alumni, and the magazine’s international writing staff. Only the winner of the Reader’s Poll, conducted days before the official list is revealed, is chosen by the general public.
Included in the list eleven times, Barack Obama is the one who has been listed most often. During the initial years, those recognized fell into one of five categories – Leaders & Revolutionaries, Builders & Titans, Artists & Entertainers, Scientists & Thinkers, and Heroes & Icons. Since then, the categories have been amended to be – Pioneers, Titans, Artists, Leaders and Icons.
HEALTH CARE HERO – DR. RAJ PANJABI
“To spend time with Raj Panjabi is to see up close what happens when someone with uncommon courage and compassion puts himself on the front lines of the world’s most complex challenges. I know. I visited Liberia last spring five days before it was first declared Ebola free, and the heroic work Raj and his organization ‘Last Mile Health’ did to train 1,300 community health workers was critical in helping the government contain the epidemic. The outbreak in West Africa has been a tragic and cautionary tale about what can happen if we don’t invest in the human resources to stop epidemics before they begin — and why Raj’s mission to put a health care worker within reach of everyone everywhere is so critical. I was proud to present Raj with our 2015 Clinton Global Citizen Award for his part in the massive, coordinated response that brought a halt to this terrible disease. We will always face challenges, but we’re all better off because there are people like Raj who are visionary, caring and determined enough to meet them.”
Bill Clinton, Founder – Clinton Foundation & 42nd President of the United States
Born in Liberia to Indian-origin parents, Rajesh Panjabi watched a brutal Civil War cut like a scythe across his country – his father disappeared for a month at one point. “Within a few weeks, we’d lost everything,” he recalls. At age 9 or 10, his family had jumped on a rescue helicopter, and embarked on a flight towards a new life. Resettled in North Carolina, Raj went to Chapel Hill, became a doctor and joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School – a ticket to a life of fat salaries and high prestige.
But he never forgot where he’d grown up, and those poor souls he’d left behind. As the Civil War wound down a decade ago, Liberia had just 51 doctors left in a country of almost 4 million. In the Liberian rainforests, the densest in West Africa, that number pretty much stood at zero. Panjabi found the right mentor at Harvard, Paul Farmer, whose Partners in Health has famously tackled the state of Third World medical care. “The numbers are pretty daunting,” says Farmer. “One billion people will go to their graves, often prematurely, without meeting a healthcare worker.”
TV’s NEW ROMANTIC – AZIZ ANSARI
“As people who shoot in New York, we know there’s no way to have an on-location show there that’s generic. It always ends up becoming specific. And on Netflix’s ‘Master of None,’ you see New York through Aziz Ansari’s eyes. Each episode is its own little experience: the way Aziz talks about his ethnicity and career is so interesting, and the entertainment-industry world he writes about is hysterical and on point. Our shows are really different; Aziz shows people in a slightly more settled phase of life. As Dev, an aspiring actor, Aziz is looking for love in a more openly sentimental way than we usually see on TV. It’s inspiring to see him experiment and break the mould. The episode “Mornings,” a time lapse of days Aziz’s character spends with his girlfriend, felt different from anything on TV; so did “Nashville,” where his foodie character missed a flight because he was buying barbecue sauce. Aziz is obsessed with food too. When we went to Mission Chinese Food with him, we just let him order. We knew it would be good — and it was amazing.”
ILANA GLAZER AND ABBI JACOBSON, CREATORS AND STARS OF TV SERIAL “BROAD CITY.”
Aziz Ansari is an American actor of Indian Origin and a comedian widely known in the United States for his roles as Tom Haverford on the NBC series ‘Parks and Recreation (2009–2015)’ and as Dev Shah on the Netflix series ‘Master of None,’ which debuted in 2015. Ansari also created, writes, and stars in what the New York Times called “the year’s best comedy straight out of the gate.” Aziz was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to a Tamil Muslim family from Tamil Nadu, India. His mother Fatima works in a medical office, while his father, Shoukath, is a gastroenterologist. Ansari described himself as an agnostic. Ansari began his career performing stand-up comedy in New York City during the summer of 2000 while attending New York University. In 2007, he created and starred in the MTV sketch comedy show ‘Human Giant,’ which ran for two seasons. This led to acting roles in feature films, including ‘Funny People’; ‘I Love You, Man’; ‘Observe and Report’; and ’30 Minutes or Less.’ Aziz Ansari’s first book, “Modern Romance: An Investigation,” was released in June 2015.
CLEARING THE AIR – SUNITA NARAIN
Sunita Narain’s ideas have shaped some of the key debates of our time. A paper that she co-authored in 1991 remains to this day the foundational charter of the global climate-justice movement. As an activist, Narain is a pioneer. She and the organization that she heads, the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, have been campaigning to reduce the Indian capital’s dangerous air-pollution levels for almost two decades. Despite resistance from many quarters, some of their key recommendations have been embraced by the courts. Narain has also consistently opposed the kind of elite conservationism that blames environmental problems on the poor. Instead she has advocated policies that recognize India’s forest dwellers and indigenous peoples as essential custodians of their environments. Hers is a voice that urgently needs to be heard in this era of climate change.
AMITAV GHOSH, AUTHOR & NOVELIST. HIS MOST RECENT BOOK IS “FLOOD OF FIRE.”
Sunita Narain is an environmentalist and political activist, and a major proponent of the ‘Green’ concept of sustainable development. Sunita has been with Delhi-based CSE (Centre for Science and Environment) since 1982, and is currently its director general. She is also a director of the Society for Environmental Communications, and the publisher of fortnightly ‘Down To Earth.’ At the CSE, she has worked hard at analysing and studying the relationship between environment and development, and at creating public consciousness about the need for sustainable development. Over the years, she has also developed the management and financial support systems needed for the institution, which has over 100 staff members and a dynamic program profile. She plays an active role in a number of research projects and public campaigns. Beginning her career by writing and researching for the State of India’s Environment reports, she went on to study issues related to forest management. For this project she travelled across india to understand people’s management of natural resources.
In the early 1990s she got involved with global environmental issues and continues to work on these as a researcher and an advocate. Her research interests are wide-ranging – from global democracy with a special focus on climate change, to the need for local democracy, within which she has worked both on forest-related resource management and water-related issues. Narain remains an active participant, both nationally and internationally, in civil society. She serves on the boards of various organisations and on governmental committees, and has spoken at many forums across the world on issues of her concern and expertise. In 2008 Narain delivered the K R Narayanan Oration on “Why Environmentalism Needs Equity: Learning from the environmentalism of the poor to build our common future”.
THE INTERNET’s CHIEF ENGINEER – SUNDAR PICHAI
Sundar Pichai has helped change the world. Last summer he became the CEO of Google. You can look him up, er, I mean, you can Google him. He was the head guy on Google Drive. That’s the original term for “the cloud.” He worked on Google Chrome, Gmail and Android phones. A great many of us can’t tell which side of a street we’re on without checking Google Maps. He was born in Chennai, India, to a middle-class family, and discovered an aptitude for numbers when his family got its first telephone, a rotary, when he was 12. He is an engineer. So is his wife. Engineers use science to solve problems and make things. Engineering applies a combination of logic and intuition to problem solving. It’s a way of thinking that leaves one well suited to run a company. We are all watching for what he produces next.
BILL NYE, SCIENCE EDUCATOR, AUTHOR OF “UNSTOPPABLE: HARNESSING SCIENCE TO CHANGE THE WORLD”
Pichai Sundararajan, better known as Sundar Pichai, is an Indian origin business executive, currently the CEO of Google Inc. Born thr 12 of July 1972 into a Tamil family in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, to Lakshmi and Regunatha Pichai, he spent his childhood in Chennai. His father was a senior electrical engineer in General Electric. Sundar grew up in a two-room apartment on 46th Street, 7th Avenue, in Ashok Nagar, Chennai. He completed his Class X at Jawahar Vidyalaya, Ashok Nagar and Class XII from Vana Vani school at IIT, Chennai. Pichai earned his degree from IIT Kharagpur in Metallurgical Engineering. He also holds an MS from Stanford in Material Sciences Engineering and a MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was named a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar, respectively.
Initially, Pichai worked in engineering and product management at Applied Materials and in management consulting at McKinsey & Company. Pichai joined Google in 2004, where he led the product management and innovation efforts for a suite of Google’s client software products, including Google Chrome and Chrome OS, as well as being largely responsible for Google Drive. He went on to oversee the development of different apps such as Gmail and Google Maps. On March 13, 2013, Pichai added Android to the list of Google products he oversees. In 2014, he was rumoured to be one of the contenders for the CEO position at Microsoft. Pichai was announced as the next CEO of Google on August 10, 2015 after previously being appointed Product Chief by CEO Larry Page on October 24, 2014. He stepped into the new position upon the completion of the formation of Alphabet Inc., the new holding company for the Google company family.
E-COMMERCE UPSTARTS – BINNY & SACHIN BANSAL
Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal (not related to each other) started Flipkart in 2007 as an online bookstore. For seed money, they pooled their savings: around US$ 10,000. Their data centre was their apartment in Bangalore. So it could have been the height of arrogance when the two Bansals, who had worked together at Amazon, told investors Flipkart could be worth US$ 100 million in a decade. It turned out to be modesty: Flipkart now has 75 million users and a US$ 13 billion valuation. Binny and Sachin do have modest lifestyles by billionaire standards, but they’re also nimble tacticians and hard-headed realists, and they dream big. India’s vast marketplace — nearly four times as populous as the US, more open than China, with a wondrous dearth of entrenched brick-and-mortar superstores — is the biggest prize left in the e-commerce universe. They’ll have to fight it out with foreign heavyweights like Amazon and Alibaba, but it’s safe to say that no one is going to underestimate Binny and Sachin again.
LEV GROSSMAN, SENIOR WRITER FOR TIME. HE COVERS CULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY.
Binny and Sachin Bansal are both Software engineers and Internet entrepreneurs, who in 2007 co-founded “Flipkart,” one of India’s first e-commerce platforms. Although they share the same last name, they are not related. Incidentally, they both completed their schooling from OP Jindal Modern School in Hisar and coincidentally, were both students of computer science engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Before the tremendous success of Flipkart, Sachin Bansal wanted to become a professional gamer. His father has been in business, his mother is a homemaker, and his brother runs a consumer goods company. Sachin is married to Priya, a dentist, and they have a four-year old kid. Binny currently resides in Bangalore. His father is a retired chief manager at a bank and mother is in the government sector. He has no siblings and is married to a homemaker.
After completing his degree, Sachin Bansal joined Techspan, where he served for few months before joining Amazon.com in 2006 as a Senior Software Engineer. Soon, he got his friend Binny Bansal into Amazon. Merely some six months later, they both decided to leave and set up a business themselves. Initially, Binny and Sachin Bansal thought of starting a comparison search engine, but realized that the market for E-commerce in India was small. Still, after they left Amazon in 2007, they founded “Flipkart” as an e-commerce company. Before joining Amazon, Binny worked with Sarnoff Corporation for 1.5 years, where he developed a lane sensor device for cars which would warn you and beep automatically if you change lanes without giving a signal.
Sachin and Binny launched Flipkart from an apartment in Bangalore with some 400,000 rupees (US$ 6,500) cash. In 2007, during the early days of Flipkart, Sachin and Binny used to deliver books across Bengaluru on their scooters themselves, and in October 2015 they showed up at the doorsteps of some customers, personally delivering goods in order to gain insights from their online buyers. Today, they are both not only billionaires, but are considered among the most astute and adept Indian ‘start-uppers’.
A STAR RISING HIGHER – PRIYANKA CHOPRA
Before ever meeting Priyanka Chopra, I had heard her name coming out of Bollywood and was impressed: she was beautiful, talented, had made nearly 50 movies, earned multiple awards — a massive star. When we connected around the time she started ‘Quantico,’ we immediately hit it off. She has drive, ambition, self-respect, and she knows there’s no substitute for hard work. We always quote the saying “Wear your success like a T-shirt, not like a tuxedo,” and she really does — as big a star as she is, as global as she is, as beautiful as she is, there’s this interesting quality of relatability. Now I’m lucky enough to be working with her on ‘Baywatch’. It’s an amazing time to watch as she pierces the US market. She has an ability to inspire people to do more and achieve more. When I look at her success from the 50,000-ft. view and see everything that Priyanka has already done, is currently doing and has the desire and the bandwidth to do, I can see that her impact is going to be invaluable.
DWAYNE ‘THE ROCK’ JOHNSON IS AN ACTOR AND PRODUCER, AND CO-FOUNDER OF SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS.
Priyanka Chopra is an Indian actress, singer, producer and philanthropist, and the winner of the Miss World pageant of 2000. One of Bollywood’s highest-paid actresses and most popular and high-profile celebrities, Priyanka has been cited as the world’s sexiest Asian, as well as one of the most fashionable celebrities. She has received numerous awards, including a National Film Award and five Filmfare Awards, and was bestowed the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 2016. Born 18th July 1982 in Jamshedpur to Ashok and Madhu Chopra, both physicians in the Indian Army, Priyanka’s childhood was nomadic, with the family relocating to numerous places, including Delhi, Chandigarh, Ambala, Ladakh, Lucknow, Bareilly, and Pune. Of all these places, Priyanka harbours fondest memories of Leh, Ladakh: “I think I was in Class IV when we were at Leh, my brother was just born. I stayed in Leh for a year and my memories of that place are tremendous … We were all army kids there – we weren’t living in houses, but in bunkers in the valley, and there was this Stupa right on top of a hill which used to overlook our valley. We used to race up to the top of the Stupa”. Today, she considers Bareilly her home town and maintains strong connections there.
Although she initially aspired to study engineering or psychiatry, Priyanka accepted offers from Bollywood that came her way thanks to her pageant wins, and her film debut came with ‘The Hero’ in 2003. She has since starred in many box-office hits and has earned wide critical praise and acclaim for her roles. So much so that by 2006, she had established herself as a leading actress of Indian cinema. In 2015, she began starring as Alex Parrish on the ABC drama ‘Quantico,’ becoming the first South Asian woman to headline an American network series. In addition to her acting career, Priyanka is noted for her philanthropic work, and was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights in 2010. She promotes various causes – environment, health and education, women’s empowerment and women’s rights, and is particularly vocal about gender equality and gender pay inequality. Though she is reticent discussing her personal life in public, her off-screen life is the subject of substantial media coverage. As a singer, she has released three singles.
INDIA’S PRESCIENT BANKER – RAGHURAM GOVINDA RAJAN
Economic seers don’t come along too often, but Raghuram Rajan, the economist currently serving as the governor of the central bank of India, is one of them. While serving as the youngest chief economist of the IMF from 2003 to 2006, he predicted the sub-prime crisis that would lead to the Great Recession, standing up to critics like former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who labelled him a ‘Luddite.’ Since then, more and more of the economic establishment has come to share Rajan’s view that debt-fueled growth is just a saccharine substitute for the real thing. As he argued in his book ‘Fault Lines,’ credit has become a palliative to address the deeper anxieties of downward mobility in the global middle class. Debt hasn’t gone away since Rajan issued his warnings. In fact, it grew by US$ 57 trillion from 2007 to 2014. But he steered India through the global crisis and fallout, playing a large role in making it one of the emerging-market stars of the moment.
RANA FOROOHAR, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE.
Raghuram Govinda Rajan is currently serves as the 23rd Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Prior to this assignment, he was chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, from 2003 to 2007, the youngest to occupy the position. He was a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business from 1991 to 2013, from whence he went on public service leave. At the Federal Reserve annual Jackson Hole conference in 2005, Rajan had warned about the growing risks in the financial system and proposed policies that would reduce such risks. Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called the warnings “misguided” and Rajan himself a “luddite”. However, following the 2008 economic crisis, Rajan’s views came to be seen as prescient and he was extensively interviewed for the Oscar-winning documentary “Inside Job.” In 2003, Rajan received the inaugural Fischer Black Prize, given every two years by the American Finance Association to the financial economist younger than 40 who has made the most significant contribution to the theory and practice of finance. His book, “Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy,” won the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award in 2010.
Raghuram Rajan was born on 3 February 1963 in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, into a Tamil Brahmin family. He is the third amoung the four children of R Govindarajan, an Indian Police Service officer. Assigned to the Intelligence Bureau, Govindarajan was posted to Indonesia in 1966, and in 1968 he joined the newly created external intelligence unit of the Intelligence Bureau, the “Research & Analysis Wing” (RAW), where he served as staff officer under spymaster R N Kao and became part of the “Kaoboys”. In 1970 he was posted to Sri Lanka, where Raghuram Rajan missed school one year thanks to political turmoil. After Sri Lanka, Govindarajan was posted to Belgium where the children attended a French school. In 1974 the family returned to India. Throughout his childhood, Rajan presumed his father to be a diplomat since the family travelled on diplomatic passports.
From 1974 to 1981 Rajan attended the Delhi Public School at RK Puram, where he learnt Hindi for the first time. In 1981 he enrolled at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi for a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, graduated in 1985 and was awarded the Director’s Gold Medal as the best all-round student. In 1987 he earned a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, where too he was a gold medalist. After IIM-A he did a stint with the Tata Administrative Services as a trainee, but left soon aftyer to join the doctoral program in management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In 1991 he received a Ph.D for his thesis “Essays on Banking.” Rajan’s research interests were in banking, corporate finance, and economic development, and especially the role finance plays in it.
AN INSPIRATION ON THE COURT – SANIA MIRZA
The Mirzas probably knew what the future held for their daughter. Her name, Sania, means brilliant. I first heard about Sania Mirza back in 2005, when she became the first Indian to win a Women’s Tennis Association event. In 2008 I saw her play in the third round of the Australian Open against Venus Williams. Though she lost, I believed she had the potential to be a star. When Sania’s singles career was cut short by wrist injuries, she, through dedication and willpower, reinvented herself fully as a doubles player. Today Sania and her partner on court, Martina Hingis, are No. 1 in doubles and utterly dominant — they have taken the past three Grand Slam events. Sania’s confidence, strength and resilience reach beyond tennis. She has inspired a generation of Indians to pursue their dreams — and to realize that they can also be the best.
SACHIN ‘MASTER BLASTER’ TENDULKAR, CRICKTEER.
Sania Mirza is an Indian pro tennis player who is currently ranked No. 1 in the women’s doubles rankings. From 2003 till her retirement from singles in 2013, she was ranked by the Women’s Tennis Association as India’s No. 1 player, both in singles and doubles. Throughout her career, Mirza has established herself as the most successful female Indian tennis player ever, and one of the highest-paid and high-profile athletes in the country. In her singles career, Mirza has notable wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva and Marion Bartoli; as well as former world No. 1s Martina Hingis, Dinara Safina, and Victoria Azarenka. She is the highest-ranked female player ever from India, peaking at world No. 27 in singles in mid-2007; however, a major wrist injury forced her to give up her singles career and focus on the doubles circuit, where she is currently ranked No. 1. She has achieved a number of firsts for her native country, including surpassing US$ 1 million in career earnings (now over US$ 5 million), winning a Pro-level title, and winning six major titles (three each in women’s doubles and in mixed doubles), as well as qualifying for (and eventually winning) the WTA Finals in 2014 alongside Cara Black, defending the title the following year partnering with Martina Hingis.
In addition, she is the third Indian woman in the Open Era to feature and win a round at a Grand Slam tournament (going as far as the last 16). She has also won a total of 14 medals (including 6 Gold) at three major multi-sport events, namely the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Afro-Asian Games. Mirza was named one of the “50 heroes of Asia” by Time in October 2005. In March 2010, The Economic Times named Mirza in the list of the “33 women who made India proud”. She was appointed as the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia during the event held to mark the ‘International Day To End Violence Against Women’ on 25 November 2013.
Sania was born in Mumbai, Maharashtra, on the 15th of November 1986, to Imran Mirza – a builder, and his wife Naseema – who worked in a printing business. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to Hyderabad where she and younger sister Anam were raised in a religious Shi’a Muslim milieu. She is a distant relative of former cricket captains Ghulam Ahmed of India, and Asif Iqbal of Pakistan. She took up tennis at the age of six, and has been coached by her father and Roger Anderson. She is also an excellent swimmer.