I write on popular culture and social trends.
Consider this a statutory warning. The stories that follow may cause heartburn. And force the stinging question: What the @#$* was I doing at their age? We recommend you wear your most gracious smile and learn to revel in the brilliance of Forbes India’s 30 Under 30 list.
While the stage is said to be set for the country’s youth—you’ve heard the rousing speeches too—it takes serious gumption to become that one in a million standout. Last year, when Forbes India tasked itself with its first 30 Under 30 list, we were sceptical. Young risk-taking was more of an American thing, wasn’t it, we wondered. That’s the land where the Zuckerbergs bloom, Silicon Valley resides and irreverence is a virtue. India: More strait-laced, conventional, what have you. But we were proven wrong: Not only did we find our achievers, we were also vindicated by their subsequent successes.
This year, the challenge was different. The class of 2014 was going to be a tough one to follow. But we had also learnt not to underestimate the Millennials.
And they did not let us down.
Our youngest listees are, not surprisingly, from the world of music and sport: Bass guitarist Mohini Dey (18) and shuttler PV Sindhu (19). The oldest is a budding ecommerce tycoon—logistics firm Delhivery’s Sahil Barua, who, propitiously, turned 30 just a fortnight after the cut-off date (all nominees had to be below 30 on December 15, 2014).
Our spunkiest listees, indisputably, are young lawyers—all women—who have made it their job to fix the ills of the legal system. Guneet Kaur (24), Isha Khandelwal (25) and Parijata Bhardwaj (26), co-founders of Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, have set up shop in the Maoist-hit areas of Chhattisgarh, helping hapless undertrials fight the soaring incarceration rates. In the nation’s capital, Shreya Rastogi (24) and Lubhyathi Rangarajan (27) offer legal representation to death row inmates in an attempt to commute their sentences.
We did ask for gumption.
Now, as always, here’s the rider: This list is not exhaustive. It is impossible for us to scan India’s seemingly limitless landscape for talent. But months of research and interviews have produced names which more than meet the criteria we set out for the 30 Under 30 list last year: The extent of achievement and his/her impact in a short span of time and the level of disruption/innovation that has been shown; scalability of his/her business or line of work; concerns of being a flash in the pan or enough indication of a long-run play.
Again, we have omitted already established names—think Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli—as well as those achievers who are to the manor born (for instance, Kavin Mittal, the brain behind social media app Hike). Their absence from the list is deliberate and not an oversight.
Instead, we have focussed on those at the precipice of greatness and b) those who have had no access to a strong lineage. Simply put, we looked for spark. Thirty sparks, actually. And here they are, shining bright. Heartburn, anyone?
30 Under 30 List
Art & Culture
· Swarupa Ananth-Sawkar, 28
· Jim Sarbh, 27
· Kartik Sood, 27
Painter & installation artist
· Nipun Dharmadhikari, 28
· Mohini Dey, 18
· Dhairya Dand, 25
Designer & researcher
· Neeti Kailas, 29
Co-founder & director, Sohum Innovation Lab
· Sahil Barua, 29
Co-founder & CEO, Delhivery
· Pranshu Patni, 28
· Mehul Agrawal, 28
· Shraddha Kapoor, 27
· Chaitanya Tamhane, 27
· Aditi Mittal, 28
· Ruchika Sachdeva, 27
Food & Hospitality
· Rahul Dua, 28
Chef-partner, Cafe Lota
· Rahul Mehra, 29
· Dr Saurav Das, 27
· Shashank ND & Abhinav Lal, 27 / 27
Co-founders, Practo Technologies
· Karthik Naralasetty, 25
Law, Policy & Politics
· Guneet Kaur, Isha Khandelwal & Parijata Bharadwaj, 24 / 25 / 26
Co-founders, Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group
· Shreya Rastogi & Lubhyathi Rangarajan, 24 / 27
Legal activists, Death Penalty Litigation Clinic, NLU, Delhi
NGOs & Social Entrepreneurship
· Abhishek Choudhary & Saransh Vaswani, 25 / 25
· Prukalpa Sankar & Varun Banka, 23 / 23
· Alok Kumar, 24
Co-founder, Prayas Innovation
· Prerna Sharma, 29
Assistant professor, Indian Institute of Science (IISc)
Social Media, Mobile Tech & Communication
· Sameer Pitalwalla, 29
CEO, Culture Machine
· Kidambi Srikanth, 21
· Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 24
· PV Sindhu,19
· Samay Kohli & Akash Gupta, 28 / 25
Co-founders, Grey Orange
The research process was three-fold: One, interviews by Forbes India staffers with sources across relevant categories as well as through studies of databases and media coverage. Two, an online application on forbesindia.com, inviting applications from entrepreneurs/professionals who felt they qualified. Three, by spreading the word through social media.
This helped us arrive at a long list which went up to over 300 names across 13 categories. (We had to drop one category, finance, for lack of adequate representation.)
The next step was narrowing down to a ‘short long’ list—the names most likely to make it to the top 30. This pool of around 80-odd names was decided in consultation with experts and observers. The last stage of separating the final 30 from the other contenders was a judgement call. But armed with expert views, the Forbes India editorial team debated, argued and vetoed its way to 30. There are those outside the list who couldn’t be ignored and they find mention too.