Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020s

They could be the defining faces of this next decade

Published: Jan 4, 2020 08:08:44 AM IST
Updated: Jan 8, 2020 02:36:59 PM IST

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Hasan Minhaj
Comedian, political commentator

Such was the impact of Hasan Minhaj’s critique of the Indian elections on his Netflix show The Patriot Act that the artiste was denied entry at the Howdy Modi event in Houston in 2019. The backlash is unlikely to deter Minhaj from speaking his mind. Born in the US to Indian parents who migrated from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, Minhaj is known to be uninhibited in airing his views on social issues. He has spoken extensively about immigration, censorship, student loans etc. With US President Donald Trump being impeached and the country up for elections in November 2020, Minhaj is likely to have plenty to talk about.

Aditya Mittal
Group CFO and CEO, ArcelorMittal Europe

The financial brain behind the world’s largest steelmaker recently earned the biggest feather in his cap with the acquisition of Essar Steel. All along, Mittal has ensured that the 114 million-tonne company survives the downcycle. Key among his plans has been a debt reduction target to $6 billion and generating $2billion of additional cash flow. A successful entry to India, reduction in Chinese capacity and a strong lineup of technologically advanced steel would allow Mittal to be a part of a far more profitable empire in the next decade.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Mike Blake/Reuters

Peter Buttigieg
Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, USA

At just 37, this Rhodes Scholar has worked at McKinsey, served in Afghanistan and been mayor of South Bend. Now, as he campaigns to be the next Democratic nominee for the US presidential election, he’s been relentlessly attacked by rivals on televised debates—usually a sure sign of rivals taking a candidate seriously. Whether or not he makes it through the caucuses remains to be seen but expect to hear a lot more from Buttigieg as he continues to prepare for public office in the years to come.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa
President, Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan president has the house divided. Rajapaksa has strong credentials: As the defence secretary between 2005 and 2015, the Sinhalese was instrumental in crushing the Tamil Tigers. He has also been accused of war crimes and charged with corruption involving state-owned weapons. While people are hopeful that Rajapaksa will deliver on his promise of strengthening internal security, sceptics are apprehensive of ethnic violence against the minority Tamils. Rajapaksa has drawn flak for appointing his brother, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister. It remains to be seen how he runs the show and whether absolute power will corrupt absolutely.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Mandel Ngan/Pool/Reuters

Mohammed bin Salman
Crown prince, Saudi Arabia

The 34-year-old prince, also known as MbS, is next in line to the Saudi throne and looks set to shape the kingdom and region. He’s laid out his vision for Saudi Arabia in the 2030s—it includes an economy less reliant on oil and government jobs, and more on the private sector and manufacturing. A recent listing of state oil company Aramco has made it the most valuable company in the world. In a signature reform, his government has permitted women to drive. His only black mark so far: The state-sponsored killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Godrej family

A humble beginning in the locks trade has created a $12 billion Godrej empire that spans a wide range of businesses from real estate to consumer goods and security solutions to appliances. The conglomerate is known for its high standards of corporate governance and profitable growth. Its large land parcel in Vikhroli remains its biggest asset. In June 2019, Adi Godrej denied reports of a family dispute over use of its landholding and said that a long-term strategy plan for the group is being worked on. Already a global player in consumer goods across Asia, Africa and South America, the next decade could see a host of their businesses sell their products to developing markets.

Dushyant Chautala
Deputy chief minister, Haryana

A little over five years after he entered electoral politics, the 31-year-old fourth generation Chautala has already been the youngest Member of Parliament and is now deputy chief minister of Haryana. His party, Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), has for the most part reclaimed the space vacated by the Indian National Lok Dal (its president Om Prakash Chautala is in jail) and has consolidated its hold on the Jat vote bank. If the JJP can broaden its appeal—a 2019 Lok Sabha election tie-up with the Aam Aadmi Party was one such opportunity—Chautala could become the man to watch out for in state politics.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Member of US House of Representatives for New York

This fiery star of the Democratic Party has become the second-most-talked-about politician in the US after Donald Trump. Once a part-time bartender, she was hailed for her June 2018 victory over 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley. Her activism over climate change, medicare and jobs guarantee as well as her ease in dabbling with politics and houseplants have made her popular among millennials and young Democrats. Her mother has been quoted as saying that Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as she is fondly called, harbours aspirations to become the president someday, so we’re likely to hear a lot more about her in the years to come.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times Via Getty Images

Mahua Moitra
MP, Trinamool Congress
A former investment banker with JP Morgan, Mahua Moitra joined the Congress in 2009 and moved to the Trinamool Congress the year after. The lawmaker from Krishnanagar in West Bengal has criticised the Centre with fiery speeches in Parliament, from her maiden address to the Lower House when she warned that India, under the current dispensation, was moving towards fascism. She is also a harsh critique of the Citizenship Amendment Act and has moved the Supreme Court against it. With the Centre drawing flak over social unrest and economic slump, Moitra is likely to become one of the foremost voices of dissent among the opposition, both inside Parliament and on the streets.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer
Minister of Defence and Chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union, Germany

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, sometimes referred to by her initials AKK, is Germany’s minister of defence and chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (DCU) since the 2018 leadership election, succeeding her mentor Angela Merkel. She is sometimes called the ‘mini-Merkel’ and might get the chancellor’s job as Merkel has said she will not seek another term. If she becomes chancellor, Kramp-Karrenbauer will be leading the moderate CDU’s efforts against the more divisive politics that has made gains across Europe. The defence minister’s role, however, will be a litmus test of her abilities.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Shutterstock

Max Verstappen
Formula 1 driver At 22, Belgian-Dutch driver Max Verstappen has eight Formula 1 wins to his name. In 2016, he became the youngest winner in Formula 1 and has since remained one of the top drivers in motorsports. In 2019, Verstappen finished third in the drivers ranking, only behind Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, both of whom drove for Mercedes. A crowd-puller, with an aggressive style of driving, Verstappen who drives for RedBull Racing has been on the radar of the top teams, including Mercedes and Ferrari. With the 2020 season looming, and a change in regulations in Formula 1 in 2021, the race driver could be in for the long haul and rewrite numerous driving records.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Samir Jana/Hindustan Times Via Getty Images

Kanhaiya Kumar

Politician, Communist Party of India (CPI)
Kanhaiya Kumar, 32, went on to become the face of student politics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after he was slapped with sedition charges in 2016. A doctorate from JNU, he fought his first electoral battle during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Begusarai constituency in Bihar for CPI. Though he lost to Giriraj Singh of BJP by 4.2 lakh votes, he managed to poll 22.03 percent votes. Political analysts say while it is early days for him, Kumar is someone who has been actively voicing his views across the country, questioning the government and its policies. A powerful orator, he is expected to make a mark in Indian politics in the future.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Shutterstock

Jacinda Ardern
Prime minister, New Zealand  Jacinda Ardern was lauded globally for the manner in which she dealt with the March 2019 terror attacks at a mosque in Christchurch that left over 50 dead. The 39-year-old prime minister chose not to take the killers’ names, wore a hijab while expressing solidarity with the victims and tightened gun laws further. Since there is no fixed term for a New Zealand prime minister, she has ample scope to take the country to greater heights. Already, it tops the world in the ease of doing business index, unemployment is at an 11-year low and wages are at a record high.

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Garima Arora

Garima Arora became the first Indian woman to receive a Michelin star when her restaurant, Gaa, in Bangkok was awarded by the 2019 Michel Guide for Thailand. The 32-year-old was also named Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2019 by World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and serves a modern take on traditional Indian cooking techniques. After graduating from the illustrious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2010, she worked at Danish chef René Redzepi’s restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, and at Indian chef Gaggan Anand’s eponymous restaurant in Bangkok. Arora has now put her weight behind Food Forward India, an initiative that will bring various stakeholders in the industry to reimagine Indian food for the global audience.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Shutterstock

Greta Thunberg
Environmental activist 

The 16-year-old environmental activist has been vocal against global leaders and large corporates for their inaction in dealing with climate change. In the coming decade, it remains to be seen whether Greta Thunberg, Time’s person of 2019 and the Nobel Peace Prize nominee, aims to take up other issues such as those related to health care, global conflicts, poverty and religion. Her biggest battle could come from within. After all, she could be influenced by forces who may want to use her as a political tool.

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Prashant Kishor
Political strategist, mentor-IPAC, and politician, Janta Dal United (JDU)

Prashant Kishor, 42, has been a political strategist since 2011 when he helped the BJP win the Gujarat state elections. This was followed by his 2014 campaign for the BJP under his political strategy firm Citizen for Accountable Governance (CAG) which helped it win the Lok Sabha elections. CAG was renamed as IPAC (Indian Political Action Committee) and Kishor now serves as mentor to the organisation. In 2019, IPAC played an important role in strategising campaigns for YSR Jagan Mohan Reddy in Telangana and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, helping both win the state elections. With regional political parties gaining a stronghold in states, these elections are becoming bigger in terms of strategy and spends, and IPAC is aggressively working in various state elections. It is advising the Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party for the upcoming state elections in 2020. Except for one, IPAC has won all the campaigns it has strategised for political parties, and has changed the entire Indian political strategising ecosystem. In 2018, Kishor joined the Janata Dal United as a politician. Though he is yet to contest from any seat, his role in the political space is only set to grow bigger.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Shutterstock

Sanna Marin
Prime minister, Finland

“There’s no trick, I’ve just been doing my work,” Sanna Mirella Marin, 34, told the Guardian newspaper in an interview. The Finnish politician became the world’s youngest prime minister when she was picked by her Social Democratic Party after its leader quit in December 2019. She has been a member of Parliament since 2015 and was minister of transport and communications prior to becoming prime minister. Leaders like her offer the best hope of galvanising the world to tackle challenging problems such as climate change and feeding billions of hungry people.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Anssumane Fati Vieira (Ansu Fati)
Footballer, Barcelona FC

A professional footballer for Barcelona FC, Ansu Fati, 17, joined the senior team in July 2019. Fati scored his first professional goal on August 31 at the age of 16 years 304 days becoming Barcelona senior team’s youngest goal scorer ever and the third youngest scorer in the history of Spanish league La Liga. That was just the beginning—he now also holds the record for being the youngest goal scorer in UEFA Champions League history after he scored against Inter Milan during a group stage match on December 10, 2019. Born in Bissau, Fati has now been granted Spanish citizenship and is expected to play for the country too. He could be the next big thing for Barcelona, the next generation for the club.

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Shutterstock

Boris Johnson 
Prime minister, UK

Boris Johnson, 55, was once, early in his career as a journalist, dismissed from The Times for falsifying a quotation. He is today Britain’s prime minister and recently led his Conservative Party to its biggest electoral victory since 1987. Johnson is tasked with shepherding Britain through Brexit—Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. His policies could decide how open or closed Britain will be to the rest of the world in the coming years. Critics have accused the former mayor of London of misconduct in public office, racism and Islamophobia. 

Mahua Moitra to Hasan Minhaj: 20 people to watch in the 2020sImage: Shutterstock

Eliud Kipchoge

In October 2019, Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge became the first man in the world to run a marathon in under two hours. The record wasn’t counted since he hadn’t run the distance in race conditions. He currently holds the world record for a marathon at 2:01:39 and a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics, in addition to winning 11 of the 12 official marathons that he took part in. Yet, Kipchoge remains rather humble, and even today continues to clean the toilets at his training camp in Kenya, where he lives. He is now gearing up for the 2020 Olympics in Japan, where he is expected to retain his gold and even set a new world record.

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(This story appears in the 17 January, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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