Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

15 years of Forbes India: Looking at India's progress since 2009

Forbes India's 15th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate change—of which there's been plenty ever since the journey began in 2009. Forbes India is today not what it was 15 years ago. But the more we change, the more the essence of Forbes India remains the same

Brian Carvalho
Published: May 23, 2024 11:24:13 AM IST
Updated: May 24, 2024 09:55:52 AM IST

15 years of Forbes India: Looking at India's progress since 2009
In his memoir, The Summing Up, W Somerset Maugham gave us this memorable line of love, life and change: “We are not the persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.”

Without delving into Maugham’s notions on love, Forbes India’s 15th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate change—of which there’s been plenty ever since the journey began in 2009. Forbes India is today not what it was 15 years ago—not at least in form as digital storytelling takes precedence over printed words. Yet, to tweak the cliché, the more we change, the more does the essence of Forbes India remain the same, as the team stays faithful to the pillars on which the product is founded: Leadership, entrepreneurship, innovation and wealth (creating it and giving it).

Neither is the Indian business and economic landscape the same as it was 15 years ago. Entrepreneurship and technology-enabled innovation are flourishing, and if the stock markets are a barometer of economic progress, the world’s fifth largest economy may be in a sweet spot.

One way to capture the evolution is to journey through the Forbes India covers since 2009. Photojournalist Madhu Kapparath took on the unenviable task of sifting through some 400 covers and picking 15 that are case studies of growth and progress.

Consider, for instance, the December 2, 2010, cover story on ‘UID: The Making of the World’s Most Ambitious Information Bank’. The ambitious project to assign every citizen with a unique identity number via Aadhaar has come a long way. The writers, Mitu Jayashankar and NS Ramnath, put the complexity of the challenge in perspective: “When the 600 millionth person is assigned a unique 12-digit UID,the system that generates it will have to compare it against 599,999,999 photographs, 1,199,999,998 irises and 5,999,999,990 fingerprints to ensure the number is indeed unique.” As of end September 2023, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had generated 138.08 crore Aadhaar numbers to Indian residents.

The office of the UIDAI was established in 2009, a landmark year for many reasons. The Forbes India team dug deep into the archives to pick out 15 events of that year that may have just been a gleam in many eyes then but have since assumed huge scale and significance. If the Aadhaar launch is one of them, the emergence of bitcoin as a new currency created a storm worldwide. You may be a fan or a critic, but you can’t ignore that the price of the first-ever cryptocurrency has crossed $70,000 from just a fraction of a penny in 2010.

The tail end of the global financial crisis coincided with India’s digital startup revolution finding fresh legs. The launch of Flipkart in 2007 from a Bengaluru apartment by two IIT grads who chucked their jobs at Amazon captured the imagination of a whole new generation of risk- and return-seeking adventurers. In 2009, some 75 startups were founded, including the likes of Mobikwik, Milk Mantra and CarTrade. Today, India has 127,433 registered startups, and VC funding surged from $475 million in 2009 to a record high of $35 billion in 2021.

Not all stories of 2009 had predictable endings, although the outcomes haven’t been unhappy ones, either. Tata Motors launched the Nano in 2009, only to stop production a decade later. What happened next is a story of remarkable transformation that has enabled Tata Motors to become India’s No. 3 carmaker, not too far behind No. 2 Hyundai.

If a generation changes in 30 years, Forbes India @15 is at that coming-of-age cusp. Here’s to the next 15.

Brian Carvalho
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter ID: @Brianc_Ed