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The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year

Triumphs and trials: Members of our 2016 30 Under 30 list experienced it all in the past year. While some achieved greater glory and scaled newer heights, others continued to strive hard towards excellence, as the report card shows

Published: Feb 11, 2017 07:19:05 AM IST
Updated: Oct 22, 2018 11:05:04 AM IST

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Image: Amit Verma

Law, Policy & Politics

Raman Jit Singh Chima
Global Policy Director at Access Now
Over the last year, Chima has been instrumental in the formation of, which seeks to safeguard net neutrality in India. (Forbes India 30 Under 30 alumnus Apar Gupta is also a member of this initiative.) Chima spent the last year working with governments around the world explaining to them why censorship of the internet does not work. He argues that promoting counter speech is a better model to take on things like violent extremist ideologies that populate parts of the internet today.

The Forbes India Impact: “The recognition made it easier for me to reach out to fellow 30 Under 30 alumni,” says Chima. “It is easier for people to understand what we are doing and to take us seriously.”

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Image: Joshua Navalkar

NGOs & Social Entrepreneurship
Upasana Makati

Founder, White Print
Makati, who runs and publishes India’s first monthly English magazine, White Print, in Braille for the visually impaired, had an impressive 2016. Bollywood production house Yash Raj Films and actor Shah Rukh Khan ran a Braille advertisement (through a letter to his fans) in the April 2016 issue of the magazine. Makati also published Tactabet, a series of alphabet books for visually impaired children in the 3 to 6 age group. She introduced tactile image printing for these books. Actor Hrithik Roshan promoted the books prior to the launch of his film Kaabil in which he plays a visually challenged man. This year, Makati plans to make Tactabet available to more public and private schools. Her magazine has seen a 15 percent increase in readership over 2016.

The Forbes India Impact: “Besides recognition from Bollywood stars, corporates such as Mahindra & Mahindra approached us to carry advertisements,” says Makati. “We were winners in the social impact space of the Top 50 startups by Baltimore-based SmartCEO magazine, after hearing about us through the Forbes India list.”  

Himanshu Gupta and Shrey Goyal

Co-founders, Sustainable Growth Initiative (SGI)
The Delhi-based startup that focuses on providing solutions and consultancy for sustainable development expanded its range of activities in 2016. This included a tie-up with the Brussels-based Food Surplus Entrepreneurs Network (FSEN), which will import organic products from India—the process for which will be validated by SGI. Goyal and Gupta have also set up a new for-profit company called SGI Associates, which will offer services ranging from market research and public opinion to business and management consultancy, accounting, auditing and tax consultancy. They also plan to expand their entrepreneurial venture to building co-working places in a tie-up with Germany-based firm Impact Hub.

The Forbes India Impact:
“It became easy for us to market ourselves and validate SGI,” says Goyal. “FSEN heard about us through someone who had seen the Forbes India 30 Under 30 link on Twitter.”

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Social media, Mobile tech & Communication
Azhar Iqubal, Deepit Purkayastha and Anunay Pandey
Co-founders, Inshorts
Inshorts, the Delhi-based company behind the application that delivers 60-word summaries of the day’s news, doubled its user base from 3 million to over 6 million downloads in the past year. The startup ramped up its content delivery by more than 400 percent, launched a new user interface, and introduced new features to enable social notifications and personalisation based on individual preferences. Inshorts is also tapping revenue channels ranging from native advertising to branded content. It has already attracted leading brands, including Vodafone, Airtel, Audi and Omega. The company’s next target: Expanding to international markets.

The Forbes India Impact: “A platform like Forbes India 30 Under 30 adds a lot to the credibility of the company in all aspects of business, from team building to strategic partnerships,” says Iqubal.  

Dipa Karmakar

Karmakar put Indian gymnastics on the world map and got the entire country to root for her during the 2016 Rio Olympics. The 23-year-old from Agartala, who has recently been conferred the Padma Shri, not only became the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Games but also put up an impressive show, finishing fourth in the women’s vault finals with a final score of 15.066 for executing the Produnova, referred to as the “vault of death”. For her remarkable achievements in a nascent sport in a cricket-crazy country, the government also bestowed her with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2016.

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Saket Modi

Co-founder, Lucideus
The high point for Lucideus in the last one year has been its association with BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money), a mobile payments app that was launched on December 30, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Lucideus has done the security assessment of the app, which has seen 10 million downloads. That apart, Lucideus’s workforce has almost doubled to 100 and the startup’s client base has expanded to newer geographies that include North America and Western Europe.

The Forbes India Impact: “We have seen a direct benefit on our balance sheet,” says Modi.

Art & Culture

Ranjeet Rajwada
Ghazal Singer
Apart from performing at various live events around the country, including the Jaipur Music Festival and other events at Raipur, Ranchi, Indore and Hyderabad, Rajwada recently released his new album Tales of Love, which includes songs from the ghazal, thumri, and Sufi genres.  

Prashant Prakash

Theatre Actor
Prakash and Nayantara Kotian’s production company, Crow, presented The Magical Floating Market, an example of immersive theatre, as part of the U/A festival in Delhi in February 2016. Prakash attended the four-month artist residency at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany between April and July, where he worked on his production, The Bliss of Solitude, a science fiction play.

Anirudh Sharma
In 2016, Sharma and his team took their air pollution recycling project to deployment stage and harvested over 10,000 hours of vehicular pollution from different sources, and converted it into high quality inks (called Air-Ink) and paints. The project was piloted in Bengaluru and Hong Kong. Graviky Labs, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff that builds high impact technologies and where Sharma is a team member, launched this product. Sharma was named as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. Graviky is working towards deploying its carbon-capture technology for corporates and government agencies.

The Forbes India Impact: “The Forbes India feature has been amazing. The exposure led to several opportunities coming our way, ” says Sharma.

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Image:Amit Verma

Ritesh Agarwal

Founder, OYO Rooms
OYO Rooms founder Ritesh Agarwal achieved unit-profitability at a network level. The company expanded its network to 200 cities, operating 70,000 rooms across 7,000 hotels. A year ago, its network included 4,000 hotels across 160 cities. At a consolidated level, OYO Rooms has emerged as India’s largest hotel network. In December 2016, it reported a 70 percent revenue growth over the same period a year ago.

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Image: Bmaximage

Arpit Dave, Mohit Kumar
Co-founders, Roadrunnr (Now renamed Runnr)
Over the last one year, Dave and Kumar recast their startup as Runnr to cater to customers across the enterprise as well as retail segments. Entry into the retail space was built on the acquisition of Tiny Owl, an online platform to order food from restaurants. In August, Runnr, which has raised $21 million, became operationally profitable. The company has 3,000 delivery personnel as part-time, independent contractors, but a full-time staff of only 80 dedicated to core technology and operations, which are concentrated in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Enterprise customers include McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and a slew of small merchants.

Mayank Kachhwaha
Founder, IndiaLends
Kachhwaha started IndiaLends in March 2015 along with co-founder Gaurav Chopra to connect lenders looking for higher risk-adjusted returns with borrowers looking for low-cost loans, but without adequate credit rating to back them. To date, IndiaLends has facilitated loans to the tune of Rs 20 crore to such people, including cab drivers. The company raised $4 million in a series A funding round, led by American Express, and is investing heavily in building its technology.

The Forbes India Impact: “The one thing that the Forbes India 30 Under 30 tag did for me is to open up access to the community of all other such young entrepreneurs, which gave me a chance to learn from their experience,” says Kachhwaha.

Richa Chadha

The accolades kept pouring in for Chadha after her career-defining performance in Masaan (2015). Last year, she was appreciated for her small, but impactful, role in Sarbjit, a biopic on the Indian convicted of terrorism in Pakistan. And though her big-ticket film Cabaret did not release on schedule, she won praise for featuring in a video titled ‘Harassment Through The Ages’ made by comedy collective All India Bakchod, and opening up about her battle with bulimia. She’ll soon be seen in the Indo-American production Love Sonia and Fukrey 2.  

Raam Reddy
Raam Reddy’s Kannada film Thithi continues to win critical acclaim in India and overseas. It won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada, and the Best Film and Best Script Writer awards at the Asia New Talent Awards, as part of the 19th Shanghai International Film Festival. It also won the Best Film Award at the first BRICS Film Festival. The film’s commercial release in Karnataka was a huge success, followed by a release with English subtitles in other parts of the country. It was also screened at Times Square in New York.

Abish Mathew
Standup Comic
The year 2016 was an eventful one for Mathew. He released two music videos, ‘End of the Month’ and ‘Don’t Do Drugs’ on YouTube, apart from uploading extracts from his standup acts across India, and collaborative videos with comedy collective All India Bakchod. In November, he started a new video series called Journey of a Joke, where Mathew interviews fellow comedians on how they think, write and perform their acts. On the personal front, he married actor and longtime girlfriend Archana Kavi.  

Karishma Shahani Khan

Creative Director, Ka-Sha
The label is working on multiple projects to reach a larger audience. It showcased a Chanderi-based collection at the Amazon India Fashion Week. Khan also won the Fashion Entrepreneur for the Year award as part of the World Consulting and Research Corporation’s 21 Young Guns. Ka-Sha is expanding its label to include home textiles and products, and is collaborating with other designers to start a store. Also in the pipeline is a collaboration with a large fashion retailer to create a clothing line.

Sasha Grewal, Kaabia Grewal
Designers and Owners, Outhouse Jewellery
In 2016, the Grewals added new points of sale and targeted a number of tier III cities where brand awareness was low. Outhouse also increased its employee headcount from 70 to 120 in the past year, and is now setting up a logistics centre in Noida.

The Forbes India Impact: “Forbes India 30 Under 30 carries a lot of weight as it’s an honour and a mark of accomplishment for those featured,” says Kaabia Grewal. “It has helped us network with other individuals from diverse sectors who were also featured on this list.”

Nikhil Kamath

Co-founder, Zerodha
The discount broking house that charges a flat rate per trade to derivative traders, irrespective of the transaction volume, has acquired over 1 lakh new clients in the past year, which is higher than the figure it had in the preceding five years. Kamath says this proves that his company is the go-to destination for cutting-edge trading technology, algorithmic trading and analytics in the country. “For a startup, which has been profitable from year one, our revenues continue to grow at over 100 percent, even on a much larger base, while still retaining high levels of profit margin,” says Kamath. Zerodha has also doubled its headcount and employs around 600 people.

The Forbes India Impact: “Being featured in Forbes India brought credibility and helped us build brand recall amidst a very large and receptive audience,” Kamath says. “The very mention of having been featured in Forbes India brings a sense of quality and merit.”

Ashish Agrawal  
Investment Advisor, Sequoia Capital
Ashish Agrawal had a fulfilling year, being promoted as vice president at Sequoia Capital. “2016 saw some companies such as OYO Rooms, Zomato and Porter improve their unit economics and emerge as stronger businesses while growing steadily,” says Agrawal. Some companies have launched new lines of business, products or brands, he says. Agrawal also advised on four new investments last year, including used goods online marketplace Zefo and online digital content firm Pocket Aces.

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Image: Joshua Navalkar

Food & Hospitality
Yash Bhanage

Founder and COO, The Bombay Canteen
For Bhanage, 2016 was a year of learning from experiences and of consolidation. “It’s truly remarkable to know that we’ve brought smiles to the faces of over 1 lakh guests since we opened our doors in 2015. That sheer number just blows me away every time I think about it,” says Bhanage. He also travelled the world in 2016 and helped his mentor and partner, chef Floyd Cardoz, open his own restaurant, Paowalla in New York.

The Forbes India Impact: “It’s been really humbling for me to see the work my team and I have put in, be recognised on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list,” says Bhanage. “Attending the Global 30 Under 30 summit in Boston last year was just incredible where, not only did I engage with others on the Forbes list from around the globe but also got to listen and learn from the experiences of successful leaders and business people likes Richard Branson, Adam Neumann and Martellus Bennett. This recognition has opened the doors for our business and encouraged me to share my learnings, especially with students and young entrepreneurs interested in hospitality.”  

Health care
Harsh Songra

Founder and CEO, My Child App
Songra’s My Child App helps parents monitor the growth of their children between 11 and 24 months of age, and detect neurological, speech and physical disorders. As of December 2016, the app has users in 140 countries, and has been downloaded 13,000 times, with 2,500 monthly average users. Songra is now building a web platform for My Child, which aims to expand its user base. In January, Songra launched another product called We, included. “This will be a platform to present the world through the eyes of the differently-abled, using the medium of stories,” he says.

The Forbes India Impact: “For a 19-year-old to be profiled among 30 of the brightest minds in India was like a dream come true, something that made me realise that I need to do something to keep up with how people see me,” says Songra. 

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Image: Amit Verma

Rahul Narang
Co-founder and CTO, Lybrate
Lybrate’s revenues have grown six-fold to Rs 22.45 crore in the past year. It has over 1 lakh doctors on its platform, and the app has been downloaded over 4 million times. Lybrate has expanded its network to tier II and tier III cities. In 2016, its new app Lybrate Lab+ crossed 4.5 million downloads. Though competition in the health care technology space has intensified, Narang and his team are unfazed. They are focussed on positioning Lybrate as the Quora (an online question-and-answer platform, edited and organised by a community of users) for health care, and democratising health care in India. They now plan to engage with insurance and pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers and suppliers.

The Forbes India Impact: “Getting recognised by a renowned publication lends credibility to our mission and vision. Being featured by Forbes India was a shot in the arm. It was very heartening, and helps when we are scouring for partnerships,” says Saurabh Arora, founder and CEO, Lybrate. [Narang was not available for comment.]

Law, Policy & Politics
Shreya Singhal

Singhal featured on the Forbes India 30 Under 30 list for her efforts to champion online freedom of speech and expression in India, by successfully challenging Section 66(A) of the IT Act. In 2016, Singhal completed her LLB degree from Delhi University, and is now working with a group of senior lawyers.

The Forbes India Impact: “Being featured in the 2016 Forbes India 30 Under 30 list opened up a lot of opportunities for me outside of work. I got invited to deliver talks at various forums, including TEDx,” says Singhal.  

NGOs & Social Entrepreneurship
Mathew Jose  

Founder, Paperman
It was a year of consolidation for this Chennai-based waste management firm. Mathew Jose spent much of last year making Paperman’s operations digital. He built a mobile application to help both vendors and users. Paperman connects 270 scrap dealers to about 4,000 households to ensure scrap is collected, weighed, sorted and paid for in an hour. Jose plans to spend much of 2017 in helping Paperman expand operations to Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Bengaluru.

The Forbes India Impact: “Many people know of us now… the recognition has been swifter. Introduction at meeting points is quicker and it has helped smoothening out the process for any deal,” says Jose.

Anirban Lahiri

It was a disappointing 2016 for Lahiri who suffered from a shoulder injury that hampered his performance at the PGA Championship. He failed to impress at the 2016 Rio Olympics as well and was later embroiled in a controversy when he alleged that he didn’t get the promised payment for the marquee event. Narrow misses in Macau and Kuala Lumpur added to his misery and his world ranking dropped to 84. However, making a cut in 16 out of the 21 tournaments in his first full year on the PGA Tour is something any golfer would happily take.

Ankit Sobti, Abhinav Asthana, Abhijit Kane

Co-founders, Postman
Bengaluru-based startup Postman, which builds platforms for the development and management of  APIs (application programming interface), has seen its workforce almost double to 30-plus employees, while its user base has grown to over 3 million. It recently launched a paid product, Postman Pro, which the co-founders say is doing good business.

The Forbes India Impact: “Being featured on the Forbes India 30 Under 30 list sent out a clear message that this is an Indian company that’s doing great work,” says Sobti.

The class of 2016: They've seen it all in the past year
Image: Amit Verma

Toshendra Sharma
Founder, Wegilant Net Solutions and RecordsKeeper

In August 2016, Sharma launched a new venture called RecordsKeeper, a blockchain-based secure data storage and retrieval solution for large enterprises. “We are in talks with some banks and pharmaceutical companies, demonstrating proof of concept,” says Sharma. He was featured on the Forbes India 30 Under 30 list for AppVigil, which was commercialised under another company called Wegilant Net Solutions. That venture didn’t take off as expected. “We focussed on the India market, but no one cares about security here,” Sharma says. This time, with RecordsKeeper, he’s confident that the large-enterprise segment is where the opportunity lies.

The Forbes India Impact: “The 30 Under 30 recognition gave me credibility and a sense of maturity with customers, who might otherwise worry about how a young person could build a tech solution for them,” says Sharma.

Compiled by: Aveek Datta
Reporting by: Anshul Dhamija, Aveek Datta, Benu Joshi Routh, Harichandan Arakali, Jasodhara Banerjee, Kathakali Chanda, Kunal Purandare, N Madhavan, Neeraj gangal, Salil Panchal, Samar Srivastava, Shruti Venkatesh

(This story appears in the 17 February, 2017 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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