Forbes lists have an uncanny knack of being noticed. There’s perhaps a simple reason for it. While other magazines concentrate on companies, Forbes focuses on business people and entrepreneurs. That’s perhaps why the names on the lists somehow stick in our heads.
The Forbes Rich List made its debut in the US almost three decades ago. The story behind the genesis of the Forbes signature rich lists is interesting. Malcolm Forbes decided to publish a list of the richest Americans, which was in keeping with Forbes’ focus on businesspeople and entrepreneurs over corporate entities.
The Rich List was pegged at 400 partly because the ballroom in the original Waldorf Astoria Hotel could only hold 400 guests and an annual ball was held by the Astor family for the 400 people who mattered.
The first issue of the Forbes 400 list was published in September 13, 1982, to instant success. The idea of the Rich List was extended globally with the first billionaire issue published in October 5, 1987.
Since then, every year, readers get the vicarious pleasure of knowing who’s nudged ahead in the ranking, and who’s dropped out. Our latest cover has the list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
Now, our lists invariably generate heat and dust. Readers will either agree or disagree with the ranking — and that’s fine. But at least, they aren’t completely passive. I’m sure it won’t be any different with this list too. But at one level, it does fit with the basic Forbes promise: We’ll tell you who is performing well, who’s not — and why.
There’s one name on the list though that may not evoke much debate. After the Congress Party’s surprise election victory in May, no one could ever grudge Sonia a place on the list of the world’s most powerful women. Yet, after so many years in public service, we know so little about what makes her tick. That was reason enough for us to ask veteran journalist and editor, Vir Sanghvi, to unravel the enigma that is Sonia.
There are plenty of surprises in store for you in this issue. My personal favourite is our interview with Deven Sharma, the president of global credit rating agency, Standard & Poor’s. A graduate of Birla Institute of Technology, Sharma is yet another Indian who’s reached the top of a major global corporation. And in his interview with our Associate Editor and head of desk, S. Srinivasan, Sharma offers a very candid perspective on how the credit rating industry took more than a couple of body blows during the financial recession and learnt how to reboot itself.
(This story appears in the 11 September, 2009 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)