Saturday, February 24, 2024
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50 Most Influential Seniors 2024

Presenting our now annual list of the most influential seniors in India. Compiled by the Seniors Today Team

Ever since Seniors Today launched in July 2019, we have been a lot more than just self-help content and nostalgia. We are a monthly e-magazine, a buzzy website with many other digitally-led properties, and now a robust app as part of our offerings. Over the last four-and-a-half years, we have painstakingly achieved the status of being ranked India’s #1 Destination for Senior Citizens.

Our now-annual listing of 50 Most Influential Seniors has become a reference point for society on the people in our country, who could and do make a difference. Yes, there many are repeats, as most of our A-listers have proved that they’ve earned their ranking for yet another year, however, we do have some new entrants. Some because they’ve turned 60, and some others because we felt that in our pool of people we consider, they have emerged a lot more influential.

It may be noted that we have considered only those who are 60 years of age or above on January 1, 2024. And, yes, as usual we didn’t consider politicians and those in government.

1. Mukesh Ambani, 66, Industrialist

Reliance Industries (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani reclaimed the top spot among the richest Indians in 2023, with his total net worth increasing $4 billion to $92 billion as compared to last year, according to the 2023 Forbes list of India’s 100 Richest. But it’s not the rich list that concerns us as much as him being the most influential Indian. Ambani continues to be numero uno on our list for the fourth consecutive year, driving his conglomerate to significant moves in the telecom, retail and media sectors, all set to become a prominent player across industries.

He is famously quoted as saying, “All of us, in a sense, struggle continuously all the time, because we never get what we want. The important thing which I’ve really learned is how do you not give up, because you never succeed in the first attempt.” Bravo!!

2. Gautam Adani, 62, Industrialist

In a recent video message to the employees of his conglomerate, billionaire Gautam Adani shared insights on what he described 2023, as a year of “extraordinary contrasts” for the group. Encouraged that the group overcame exposes by an international shortseller and various groups opposed to his burgeoning interests, Adani said the conglomerate emerged from this tumultuous period in a “position of unprecedented strength.”

The Adani portfolio companies experienced a remarkable surge in operating income, reaching over ₹ 43,000 crore, a record-breaking 47% increase in the first half of FY24.

Looking ahead, the Adani group has ambitious plans to invest a staggering $100 billion over the next decade, with a focus on shifting towards clean energy.

Clearly Adani has emerged as the biggest winner despite huge setbacks in early 2023.   Adani’s achievements and meteoric rise have been written about a fair bit. But his dominance in the world of business (and otherwise) in India stays.

3. Ratan Tata, 86, Industrialist

As many as 120 lakh X (earlier called Twitter) followers, attest to the fact that Ratan Tata is one of the most well-respected business people not just in India but also internationally.

The Chairman Emeritus of Tata Group, turned 86 on December 28.  “One day you will realise that material things mean nothing. All that matters is the well-being of the people you love.” he says.

Being the most followed Indian industrialist on social media is no small feat. Tata has morphed his mortality into a living legend with values to uphold and principles to live by. This perhaps is true power in our current world.

Ratan Tata has never taken his heritage for granted. The Tata founders bequeathed most of their personal wealth to the many trusts they created for the greater good of India and its people. At his core, he has remained a philanthropist, always concerned about the plight of others and the state of the world.

4. Azim Premji, 78, Industrialist, Philanthropist

Premji remains among the world’s most generous billionaires.

As the first Indian who signed up for The Giving Pledge, he believes in creating a better world for millions of people. The Azim Premji Foundation has helped create a better world for millions of people.

Though not as active in day-to-day business in recent years, Premji continues to be acknowledged as one of India’s most revered business tycoons and is one of the reigning czars of the IT industry with Wipro, though his son Rishad took over the reins of Chairman in 2019.

5. Laxmi Niwas Mittal, 73, Businessman

Mittal has an illustrious career of turning sick steel companies into profitable ventures.

Having built himself from the ground of Sadulpur, near the Haryana- Rajasthan border where he was born, there’s only way he has moved ever since: up.

In 2004, he orchestrated the landmark merger of Ispat International with LNM Holdings and the US-based International Steel Group, forming the world’s largest steelmaker, Mittal Steel Company.

Mittal’s reputation as a master dealmaker and game-changer was solidified.

This big achievement notwithstanding, in 2006, the unthinkable happened. Arcelor, a European titan, agreed to a merger with Mittal Steel. In this way, ArcelorMittal was born, ruling over 10% of global production.

Mittal’s success can be attributed not only to his financial acumen but also to his visionary leadership. Mittal’s commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility has set benchmarks for the global steel sector. The Mittal family established the LNM Foundation, focusing on education, healthcare, and community development.

With an empire worth ₹1.2 lakh crore, Lakshmi Mittal has not only built a legacy for himself; he has also contributed towards reshaping an industry.

6. Samir Jain, 68, Media Baron

The Times of India’s success is owed largely due to the unorthodox philosophy of Samir Jain. An out-of-the-box thinker, he has handled the paper more like an advertising mogul and slipped in a few sweet deals to ensure further success and stability at a time when print is walking a tightrope.

Though print publications are perched at the far edge of a cliff, the group has managed to hold on to their prestige, whilst embracing digital space full on. Although there has been an amicable division with brother Vineet; From digital and streaming OTT platforms television – Times Now and ETNow and the new Hindi variants, Mirror Now, a slew of entertainment channels and the FM network – Mirchi, Jain is indeed the force behind the huge influence the group and its various platforms wield over state affairs whilst catering to a loyal audience.

7. Nita Ambani, 60, Sports, Arts

It would be fair to state that 2023 truly belonged to Nita Ambani, who, having turned 60 on November 1, makes it to the list. And right to the Top 10.

It was raining awards on Nita Ambani in 2023.The US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) recognised Nita Ambani, Founder and Chairperson of Reliance Foundation, with the 2023 Global Leadership Award for Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility. She was also conferred with the prestigious titles of ‘Citizen of Mumbai’ and ‘Sports Leader of the Year – Female’.

Her efforts in the fields of arts, sports and education have been nothing short of inspiring and her narrative continues to be superlative.

Taking forward its commitment in supporting sports for women and expanding the Mumbai Indians (MI) family, the Nita Ambani-owned franchise added – a women’s cricket team in the first-ever Women’s Premier League (WPL) in January 2023. This makes MI’s women’s team the fourth MI franchise after Mumbai Indians, MI Cape Town, and MI Emirates.

And there’s no stopping her…

Jio World Centre Mumbai’s iconic new landmark destination, opened its glitzy doors to, the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC), a multi-disciplinary cultural space in the sphere of arts.  Envisioned Ambani, the NMACC and Jio World Plaza — are already the high spots of the country’s retail, art and cultural scene.

“Wealth and power don’t go together. Power cannot be brokered. To me, power is responsibility.” 2023 was the year that underscored this quote by Ambani.

8. Natrajan Chandrashekaran, 60, Chairman

“Tata group will have to prioritise execution, customer satisfaction and use technology especially AI in 2024,” said Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran in his New Year message to employees. “Now that we know what we have to do, and our plans have momentum, we need to think hard about how we can execute flawlessly and with speed”.

N Chandrasekaran as he is widely known as, is a name that resonates with vision, resilience, and remarkable leadership. His journey from a young engineer to the Chairman of Tata Sons, one of India’s largest and most prestigious conglomerates, is an inspiring story of dedication, innovation, and unwavering commitment.

He has also shared insight into his personal and professional life on a Netflix documentary, hosted by former US President Barack Obama. Chandrasekaran gave credit for his success to his mother who instilled hard work values in him as a foundation for his three-decade-long career.

Known in the inner circles as ‘The Transformer of Tata Sons’, he wears his accolades with great humility. The life mantra of the Tata chairman includes simple living, healthy eating and enjoying outdoor activities with wife Lalitha.

9. Radhakishan Damani, 69, Businessman

With a wealth of Rs 1.75 lakh crore, the 69-year-old Mumbai-based business magnate moved up ranks in the rich list which is dominated by some others. In the last five years, the wealth of Damani has increased by 280 per cent or Rs 128, 800 crore.

What makes this year’s Top 50 list more inspiring is the men like Damani who have from humble beginnings, climbed every mountain to rise to the top.

Damani was born in Mumbai in 1956, where he was raised in a one-room apartment. He dropped out of college after his first year and entered the stockmarket as a broker and trader in the late 1980s.

After being the biggest shareholder in HDFC Bank, Damani exited the stockmarket in 2000 and began building a retail business by buying cheap land in Navi Mumbai. He tested the ground with his first DMart store in 2002, seeing slow growth for almost a decade, opening 25 stores in its first nine years. Today, Damani operates more than 200 DMart-branded stores in 45 Indian cities.

10. Uday Kotak, 66, Banker

In a post on social media, Uday Kotak shared his 2023 ‘year-end musings’: “India is transforming from a nation of savers to investors. The Indian savers’ interest in the markets improved after the global financial crisis. That saver is now savouring the joys of investing. Mutual fund platforms, cash equities and derivatives markets, insurance funds, global private equity in India, other platforms like AIFs, lower tax regime for equity, have all converted a saver to an investor,” he said.

The ace banker also gave a lowdown on how to sustain the growth story. He said that India must avoid bubbles through policy, regulation, education and supply of quality paper.

In a year where benchmark stock indices Sensex and Nifty hit record highs, Kotak remains buoyant, and ten steps ahead of his counterparts.

11. Kiran & Shiv , 73 & 78, Art Dealer, Philanthropist, Industrialist

 

Indian IT pioneer Shiv Nadar co-founded HCL in a garage in 1976 to make calculators and microprocessors with five friends.

Today, HCL Technologies is among India’s largest software services providers. The year 2023 saw Nadar’s wealth leap the highest to the tune of + $9.29B.

A strategic partnership with Verizon Business, valued at $2.1 billion, positioned HCL as a key collaborator in global managed network services. The company collaborated with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to drive the adoption of generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI).

In 2023, HCLTech entered India’s Top 10 most valuable companies following a 4% stock rise in September. And in December, it joined an elite group of companies with a market-cap of Rs 4 trillion.

HCL Technologies, which employs 211,000 people in 52 countries worldwide, hires high school grads and trains them on the job.

Kiran Nadar is one of the most influential names in the art world, and not just that she is undoubtedly the biggest art buyer in this part of the world.

The Nadars are well known for their investments in the field of education and in 2023, the Nadar family were India’s top philanthropists with donations of over Rs 2000 crore.

12. Harsh Mariwala, 68, Businessman

“Success requires not just leveraging your strengths but also taking risks, overcoming challenges, learning from failure, evolving your vision, and sometimes reinventing yourself. That’s true for both organizations and individuals,” says Harsh Mariwala

Constant innovation in thinking and finding unique solutions are permanent fixtures in Mariwala’s gambit for supremacy. His vision ensures a sweet spot for Marico in the FMCG space.

But it hasn’t been a smooth sail. “Your degree is not your education.” he says, and continues, “Entrepreneurs lay so much emphasis on having this one grand vision for their ventures. I’ve always believed otherwise. With time, I’ve evolved my vision. This has always enabled us to explore newer opportunities.”

Mariwala-isms are best consumed off his much-followed Twitter handle.

13. Harsh Goenka, 67, Industrialist 

A self-confessed “happiness addict”, Harsh Goenka’s concern on India being ranked 126th on the Global Happiness Index got him over 96k views. That’ a massive number. It shows that India’s youth want to be heard and Harsh Goenka is lending his ear and ideas, to help rectify this situation.

He is much more than the Chairman of RPG Group, and beyond just being among the 100 richest Indians, he has what it takes to stay on top of his game.

Goenka inspires and invigorates through his tweets and his growing following indicates (as above) that people absorb his good vibe, for instance: “What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave, not what you learnt but what you taught, not your success but your significance, not your talent but your character. Choose to live a life that matters.”

14. Anand Mahindra, 68, Industrialist

A recent Forbes article calls Mahindra – a rebel, leader and master of change. Veritably, that he is all these qualities, which blend seamlessly with a high EQ makes Anand Mahindra an essentially powerful man.

It’s not so much that he is Chairman of the Mahindra Group that spans 22 industries and under his leadership over three decades, the conglomerate has scaled a phenomenal transition in the next level of growth – but more – it is despite enormous wealth and legacy, he had the vision and humility to let super qualified professionals lend their skill to the Group. Mahindra is unapologetically authentic, grounded, vulnerable and open to his emotions.

Part of the group of influential voices in India who have taken up microblogging    X (formerly Twitter) as their compelling tool to communicate, he too has a large number of fans whom he inspires. People love stories where they can relate to someone, despite generational, financial, educational, and other differences. It’s the emotional quotient that ultimately brings people closer to Mahindra.

15. Sanjiv Goenka, 64, Industrialist

The RPSG Group headed by Kolkata-based Sanjiv Goenka used to be dependent on the power sector which contributed to 80% of the company’s revenues. Today, CESC has been restructured into four separate companies.

Other assets include supermarket chain Spencer’s Retail and its subsidiary Nature’s Basket and snacks brand Too Yumm!, which son Shashwat looks after. Goenka owns a majority stake in football team ATK and has the franchise for Indian Premier League cricket team Lucknow Super Giant

In recent times he has hinted on launching a new product line. We can follow that story this year. He is quoted in The Economic Times as saying, “The way I see it, my business can be defined into two categories: one was what I inherited and the other is what I have done with the inheritance.” Indeed.

16. Aroon Purie, 80, Media Baron

After a rather serendipitous start in print journalism with India Today, Purie has been the rock behind the success of the group, setting standards in print, television and internet journalism, besides leading many transformations in Indian news media over the past 50 years.

This has deservedly accrued him the Managing India Award for Lifetime Contribution to Media at the 50th AIMA National Management Convention in 2023.

Still very relevant and on top of the latest happenings, he is a constant source of encouragement to his staff, he makes sure that no stone is left unturned and every detail accounted for whilst reporting.

Although he says his exacting standards were sometimes begrudged by his staff, the staff recognised that “the end-result was a good product” and even came up with a friendly nickname for the editing process— “Purification”—after him. In an interview with Harvard Business School, he said: “I always looked at the magazine from the reader’s point of view, always asking, “Can I understand what this article is saying?” A lot of journalists write for other journalists, or they write for politicians. But the common man needs context, needs explanation, needs history, and background. I brought that into it.”

17. Dr Mahendra Mohan Gupta, 82 Media baron

13. Mahendra Mohan Gupta

The Guptas – Dr Mahendra Mohan and the next generation – are the owners of the largest-selling daily in India, Dainik Jagran, with a readership of 68.7 million, they reach Indians across the country.

As of 2023, Gupta is the Non-Executive Chairman of the Company.

The combined readership of Jagran Prakashan’s nine print titles—eight newspapers and a magazine—is a whopping 81.3 million. And now, with its 15 digital portals in 12 languages, it has further expanded its already huge presence globally as well as at home. Given its dominance in the all-important state of Uttar Pradesh, Gupta and his family have enormous influence.

18. NR Narayana Murthy, 78, Industrialist, Philanthropist

7. NR Narayana Murthy

While he led the IT revolution in India, he is and will always remain a simple man, and one of the most respected voices in Indian business and industry.

“Honesty, meritocracy, national pride, speed, competitive spirit are all characteristics of nations that have made progress. But those that have a culture of apathy, dishonesty, plagiarism, cut-and-paste, indifference, are characteristics of a society that has not made progress. And this country will take thousands of years to change,” he remarked with sadness, in a 2020 newspaper interview.

Last year, Murthy sparked a fierce debate in Parliament, after he said India’s productivity was the lowest in the world and that youth should work 70 hours a week if they wanted to compete with countries like China. Coming from a man who himself had put in the hours, through his belief of hard work and effort effect change and greatness.

A philanthropist who focuses on solutions for the betterment of society, he is in no small way aided by his wife, Sudha Murthy who is equally responsible, not just for the success of Infosys, additionally for single-handedly evangelising the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility.

19. Cyrus Poonawalla, 83, Industrialist

06. Cyrus Poonawalla

Cyrus S. Poonawalla is chairman and managing director of the Cyrus Poonawalla Group, which includes the Serum Institute of India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world and Poonawalla Fincorp, an emerging player in the financial space in India.

In 2023, he ranked #6 on Forbes India rich list with a net worth of $23.8 billion. He was numero uno in Hurun Global Healthcare Rich List 2023.

In recent times, his son and CEO of the company Adar is more the face and voice of SII, Senior Poonawalla was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2022 for his lifetime of work in the biotech space.

20. Nandan Nilekani, 68, Entrepreneur

Long before Aadhaar, Nilekani, who was then Co-founder, CEO, president and managing director of Infosys, was selling a vision of India to the world that today is much more apparent to many.

Nilekani has risen to become the best-known figure among a small elite who straddled private enterprise and public service to wow the world with what was possible in India.

With the AI revolution in full throttle, Nilekani’s opinion is that all AI should be use-case-led which can be amplified to make the lives of common people better.

“With AI coming along, it is giving us new capabilities. One is demystifying complexity. In other words, how do you make sure that people have the right information and ideas at the right time at their fingertips,” Nilekani said. “AI’s ability to reduce this complexity and therefore make knowledge more accessible for everyone will ultimately lead to a much smoother transition to digital public infrastructure.”

Most recently, Nandan has co-founded and is the Chairman of EkStep, a not-for-profit effort to create a learner centric, technology-based platform to improve basic literacy and numeracy for millions of children.

An author of bestselling books, Nilekani’s voice is much respected across the nation on business and social issues. A true visionary of our times, India is lucky to have not lost him to foreign shores.

21. Rajnikanth, 73, Actor

Shivajirao Gaekwad aka Rajnikanth was born in humble environs and evolved from a bus conductor into one of biggest megastars in Indian cinema.

Rajinikanth, who began his career in 1975, remains one of Tamil cinema’s biggest names despite the emergence of several younger stars. The mass hero is regarded as a synonym for style and swag.

From people worshiping him with milk before his film release to politicians quaking when he speaks his mind, his words have a tremendous impact on people. Now that’s what you call power!

22. Sudhir Mehta, 69, Industrialist

Image Courtesy: Forbes

Sudhir Mehta is chairman emeritus of the $2.7 billion (revenue) Torrent Group comprising Torrent Pharma, Torrent Power and Torrent Gas.

The 64-year-old company (Torrent Pharma) was founded by his late father Uttambhai Nathalal Mehta, who was a salesman for Swiss pharma giant Sandoz.

Sudhir with younger brother Samir has morphed Torrent into a force to reckon with, whether in pharma, power, gas and now diagnostics.

Their Torrent Power distributes electricity to more than 3.8 million customers in their home state of Gujarat, MMR (Mumbai Metropolitan Region), and Agra.  In July 2021, the group’s Torrent Gas announced it was investing $1.3 billion over five years to build compressed natural gas stations. The group entered the diagnostics segment in February 2022 through Torrent Diagnostics Private Limited. Spearheaded by the mastermind Sudhir, the group is estimated to be worth over $7.2 billion.

23. Sunil Mittal, 65, Industrialist

“The public digital infrastructure network that India has built over the last few years is boosting our growth,” says the telecom baron.

He optimistically announced a satellite communication breakthrough for India at the India Mobile Congress 2023, revealing a significant technological leap for India.

Telecom tycoon Mittal owns Bharti Enterprises which spans over telecom, insurance, real estate, hospitality and more. As of 2023, Mittal has hit the 10th richest Indian spot and been conferred with ‘The Businessman of the Year’ award by The Economic Times. Wealth is not nouvelle to him nor is his ever-increasing influence in telecom.

24. Anil Agarwal, 69, Industrialist 

The Founder and Chairman of Vedanta Resources Limited has grown his company into the largest metal mining company in India. In recent years, Vedanta has grown steadily but not forgetting to pledge support towards India’s carbon neutrality goals. This is a small example of what makes Anil Agarwal a huge star in his field.

That said, 2023 turned out to be a cliffhanger for Vedanta and its founder. A debt crisis was handled through sheer grit. Living on the edge and taking bold steps with confidence is undoubtedly Agarwal’s forte. “My dream, my vision, is in a few years I will have zero debt, he says.

As we watch this maverick play his cards out, his foundation AAF created 4,500 Nand Ghars, benefiting 180,000 children and 136,000 women, and the launch of multi-millet nutribars for children in Anganwaadis helped increase the quality of nutrition of many a child in India. Agarwal has used his powerful influence to serve the greater good of the country.

What was that saying?  When you give, you receive 10-fold…

25. Ajay Piramal, 68, Industrialist

Ajay Piramal took charge of the family textile business at a young age, but over the decades, he has repeatedly proved his success as a leader with vision.

While Piramal Pharma’s three key business verticals — CDMO, Complex Hospital Generics (CHG), and India Consumer Healthcare (ICH) — have all picked up traction, its CDMO business has been key in its revival story so far. And Piramal expects this to continue, despite the competitive nature of the business — thanks to India being seen as a viable alternative to China. “Earlier there was a lot of development and manufacturing happening in China. Now, because of the whole geo-political situation globally, a lot of it is moving also into India,” said Piramal.

The group had much to cheer about as it was awarded “The Best Organisation for Women” at the ET awards, in 2023.

The Piramal Foundation works in tandem with state governments across 21 states in India to support health and welfare, education and provide safe drinking water for the poor amongst other social responsibilities.

Courage, fearless attitude and focus on the actions are some of the key values of his daily mantra.

26. Amitabh Bachchan 81, Actor

That he is the greatest and most-loved Bollywood actor precedes everything he does. Professionally though, he has proven he excels at far more than acting.

A megastar with a mega-life to match. A man who has seen and done it all. He has seen the highs and the lows. An actor who through the decades is still a force to reckon with commanding the top spot in movies. Personally, he has evolved through his experiences, unafraid to show himself in a vulnerable light.

Bachchan is a legend, but what defines him is his dignified manner.

He has one of the most influential social media timelines across all of India. From updates about his work to throwback pictures with his friends and family, the superstar uses his X (formerly Twitter) handle to deepen the bonds with his fans. One tweet from him can get millions of Indians on his side. Bachchan is hands down one of the most influential Indians even today.

27. Dilip Shanghvi, 68, Businessman

Widely regarded as the ‘Medicine Moghul’, Dilip Shanghvi worked hard to make Sun Pharmaceuticals the largest drug company in India and fifth largest in the world.

In 1982, the then 27-year-old Shanghvi finally opened his first manufacturing unit with a capital of 10,000 rupees. He named his venture Sun Pharmaceutical Industries. The unit, in his native state of Gujarat in Vapi, produced exactly one psychiatry drug. However, the business soon picked up, thanks to Shanghvi’s acumen and energy.

Shanghvi is one of India’s richest and most influential people, diversifying into oil, gas and renewable energy sectors as well.  The Shantilal Shanghvi Foundation, of which is the Chairman, has earned him the Padma Shri many years ago.

Today, Dilip Shanghvi’s relentless pursuit of excellence continues to shape the health industry, driving innovation and access to quality healthcare for millions.

28. Sunil Gavaskar, 75, Cricket Commentator, Former Cricketer

Sunil Gavaskar is a recipient of the Indian sports honour of the Arjuna Award and the civilian honour of Padma Bhushan.  He was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 2009, In 2012, he was awarded the C. K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honour that the Indian Board can bestow on a former player.

The ‘little master’ is a big influencer of the game even today, both in India and worldwide. Widely regarded as one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time in men’s Test cricket history, Gavaskar is one of the most loved and stylish cricketers in the country.

Today, he lends his expertise in the game via commentary on TV and special columns in print and his advice which is well respected by both the men’s and ladies Indian cricket team.

29. Subhash Chandra, 73, Media Baron

Essel Group, headed by Chandra, spans over Zee Entertainment and Zee Media, Dish TV and Siti Networks – a multi-system operator. The company revolutionised television broadcasting in India with Zee Entertainment.

Dr Chandra remains one of most influential personalities in India’s media landscape. Chandra is the quintessential maverick personality with his successful entertainment and news channels. Even though Zee Entertainment has inked a merger deal with Sony Pictures which is currently experiencing some turbulence, Chandra will continue to be a force to reckon with in the Indian media.

On the ups and downs of life, Dr Chandra said, “A strong person never runs away from the problem but fights it.” He further said that bad times taught him a lot.

30. Shobhana Bhartia, 66, Media Baron

Though she had the privilege of growing up in an environment that fostered entrepreneurial aspirations she took advantage of her ‘leg up’,  establishing herself as an exemplary role model for all women.

As the Chairperson and editorial director of HT Media, rebranding the publication into HT – bright, young media – was Bhartia’s brainchild.

HT is the second-most influential English newspaper in India, and Hindustan is one of the top Hindi dailies. HT online digital media spans Hindustan Times, Livemint, Desimartini, HT Campus and Shine. HT media also has radio stations – Fever FM, Radio Nasha, and Radio One. It also has a podcast – HT Smart, India’s first podcast with AI voices.

Shobhana Bhartia’s net worth was an estimated around Rs 74.3 crore in 2023, and with her relentless determination, strong leadership skills, and strategic vision, her journey is nothing short of extraordinary.

31. Pawan Munjal, 68, Businessman

Though the late Brijmohan Lall Munjal founded Hero Group, Pawan Munjal can take full credit for knocking the ball out of the park.

Under his leadership, Hero MotoCorp achieved the coveted title of World’s No. 1 two-wheeler company in 2001 and has successfully retained this position for 22 consecutive years. The Company also surpassed the milestone of 110 Million cumulative production and sales in 2023.

Munjal holds executive positions at industry bodies – Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

Says Munjal, “Innovation is not a slogan at Hero MotoCorp, it is a way of life in our organisation.”

32. Dr Devi Shetty, 69, Doctor, Entrepreneur

Devi Prasad Shetty is best described as a heart surgeon with a heart of gold. Shetty set up Narayana Hrudayalaya in 2001 with the motto: ‘None shall be turned away because they can’t pay.’ In 2021, he expanded his healthcare company, which is now listed on the stock exchange.

2023 saw the surgeon foray into the health insurance industry. “In all my 33 years back in India the whole discussion was around affordable healthcare and cost reduction. But today, any further lowering of costs in medical procedures will be at the cost of quality and since we cannot compromise on the quality but do still need to make healthcare affordable, the only option available is affordable health insurance.” The hope for the country now, the doctor reminds us, “is not universal healthcare but universal health insurance.”

33. Harish Salve, 66, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India

India’s most expensive lawyer and the most high-profile one – are tags that Harish Salve is used to.  Salve has earned his mettle with cases fought in the Supreme and High Courts. He has represented high-profile clients like Mukesh Ambani, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Prakash Singh Badal and Lalit Modi.

“From Nani Palkhivala, I learnt that genius is a lot of hard work. It entails having the capacity to do what people find boring; that, is where you hone your attention to detail. Palkhivala taught me to make excellence an end unto itself. He used to say that the measure of how well you’ve argued in court comes not from the decision of the court, but from how you personally feel you’ve performed. He opened up a whole new dimension of the world before me,” he says.

34. Shardul Shroff, 63, Corporate Lawyer

As a thought leader in the legal domain, Shroff has been consistently rated as a leading corporate and M&A lawyer, both internationally, and here in India.

After breaking away from his brother to form Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, Shroff soared to even greater heights representing the cutting-edge of legal expertise, with a slew of high profile clients which include Meta ( formerly Facebook).

Shroff is known for his thoroughness, innovation and problem-solving approach and his knowledge of regulation. His multi-practice expertise and experience is borne out in several rescue schemes, resolution plans and debt and corporate restructuring. Shroff has been instrumental in the advancement of India’s corporate law practice on par with international standards.

35. Kapil Sibal, 75, Lawyer, Politician

“After 30 years, it was time to quit and work as an Independent candidate. I would not speak against Congress at any point,” said Kapil Sibal in 2022 when re-joining the Rajya Sabha in an independent capacity. – Quintessential Sibal!

Sibal needs no introduction unless you’ve been meditating for 40 years in the Himalayas; he is and has been one of the most revered (Supreme Court) lawyers in the country. A man who largely lives by his truths, stepping away from the Congress after a lifetime of working with the party through historical milestones, didn’t scale the shock quotient index.

Known for his forthright manner in articulating his vision, he pretty much nails his point down with élan.

“India has changed. It is no longer the inclusive country we were born in. The (fundamental issues), dialogues of today are worrisome. If we do not stand up to this, our tomorrow will be in danger” he says.  Hmmm.

36. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, 64, Lawyer

Abhishek Singhvi is an eminent jurist, writer and parliamentarian, known for his plain-speaking facts.

The youngest designated Senior Advocate – at the age of 34; the youngest Additional Solicitor General of India – at 37; and, the youngest elected vice president of the Supreme Court Bar Association – at 39 are meritorious of this self –made man.

From 1997 to ‘98, he was Additional Solicitor General of India. He was chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Law and the AICC Law and Human Rights Department. He was a member of the Committee of Privileges from 2006 to 2010. From August 2009 to July 2011, he served as the Member of the Committee on Personnel in Public Grievances, Law and Justice Department.

He was bestowed the Global Leader of Tomorrow Award by the World Economic Forum, Davos in 1999.

He chaired the 30-member parliamentary panel that presented its voluminous report on the Lokpal Bill 2011. The Report discussed and reported on over 24 issues and reflected an overwhelming consensus on almost all of them. He has pledged Rs 2 crore to establish The Singhvi Trinity Scholarship at Cambridge, to focus exclusively on Indian students desirous of pursuing an LLM.

37. Savitri Jindal, 83, Businesswoman, Politician

Savitri Jindal is the richest woman in India, and the world’s seventh-richest mother.

Jindal was known for her view that the women in their family primarily manage the household and do not participate in the business aspect. However, everything changed following her husband’s demise in a helicopter crash in 2005. Post the untimely demise of her husband, she took charge of the business.

Jindal, a mother of nine children, divided the group’s companies among her four sons, who now operate them independently.

Jindal used to be active in politics and still contributes to the public work her husband started.

38. Sandeep Bakshi, 63, Banker

When Bakhshi entered the corner office of ICICI in October 2018, the bank had a lot on its plate, including the mired-in-controversies departure of then MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar. A sizable decline in the quality of assets in the corporate book was not good news. Since then, the bank’s advances have nearly doubled from Rs 5.12 lakh crore in March 2018 to Rs 10.19 lakh crore in March 2023, while its assets have expanded from Rs 8.79 lakh crore to Rs 15.84 lakh crore.

And, as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.

According to Business Today, the Mumbai-headquartered ICICI bank has climbed the ladder of BT500—the definitive listing of India’s most valuable companies by average market capitalisation—leaving behind giants like HUL and Infosys, who rule their domains, to No. 4, climbing two places from last year.

Undoubtedly, the credit goes to the leadership.

“Our strategic focus continues to be on growing our core operating profit through a 360-degree customer-centric approach and by serving opportunities across ecosystems and micro-markets,” Bakhshi said in an analyst call in October.

Bakhshi insists on internal collaboration, which basically means better coordination among teams on the ground and the head office or the product heads.

That’s the Bakhshi mantra communicated to his 140,000-strong workforce: the importance of building a sustainable business strategy and an organisation that can stand the test of time.

39. Vijay Chauhan 87, Businessman

Courtesy: Forbes

When you are patriarch of the family business that manufactures the world’s largest selling biscuit, you can verily give yourself a pat on the back.

Even though he is ranked among the first 30 richest Indians, Vijay Chauhan is reclusive and conservative, with no immediate plans of taking the company to an IPO.

The engineering graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology points out that 15 billion Parle G biscuits stacked side-to-side (each biscuit measures 53mm), would be enough to cover the distance from the earth to the moon and back.

That’s equivalent to the monthly sales of Parle G.

Parle (named after the Mumbai suburb of Vile Parle), was co-founded by Vijay’s late father Kantilal Chauhan as a confectionery maker in 1929 in Mumbai.

Brand Parle’s appeal cuts across generations of Indians who have adored its many manifestations across retail shelves. From the humble Parle-G to the indigenous cola Thums Up, and an idea ahead of its time – Bisleri, the story of these brands is as unique as the story of the Chauhan family.

Three crore packs of Parle-G biscuits were distributed to the poor and needy during the Covid-19 pandemic. It inspired the brand to contribute more towards a humble and caring narrative that fits like a glove with one of the world’s best loved biscuits.

40. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, 71, Entrepreneur

A self-made woman and one of India’s richest, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Executive Chairperson of Biocon Ltd. and Biocon Biologics Ltd experienced 2022 as year of great personal loss. She lost her mum and husband within four months of each other.

But brave souls here on earth, continue their journey with grit and courage. A 1st-generation entrepreneur and global business leader with over four decades of experience in biotechnology. Recipient of Padma Shri & Padma Bhushan.

This great lady deservedly rakes in the awards y-o-y with élan.  Among the latest feathers in her cap, she was named World’s 100 Most Powerful Women 2023, by Forbes, honored with Ban Ki-moon Award 2023 for Women’s Empowerment, by Asia Initiatives (AI), and honoured as the Outstanding Business Leader of the Year at the 19th edition of CNBC-TV18’s India awards.

Said Mazumdar-Shaw, “As a scientist, I was inspired by the vision of creating an organisation that leverages science and technology to widen access to lifesaving drugs for patients on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. It is through our philosophy of affordable innovation that we have been able to make a difference to global health equity by ensuring that no patient anywhere in the world is denied essential and lifesaving biologic drugs on account of affordability.”

41. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, 66, Yogi, Author

Sadhguru keeps himself relevant and sought after – whether it’s his #SaveSoil movement which has won him global acclaim and followers, his participation in global events or his advice to the youth on sex and living.

He is the quintessential guru about town, or rather, the world. Extensively involved in a range of issues, it is his ability to sync with the youth that has made his popularity grow.

He creates ripples where he goes and he goes places. Actively involved in the COP28 Summit, he lauds India’s effort in fulfilling its promises.  Sadhguru said, “We must understand when we try to change the way we live…the way we energise the nation, the way we improve our economy, it is not going to happen overnight. This is how human beings function”.

42. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, 67, Spiritual Guru

More reticent doesn’t make Sri Sri Ravi Shankar less influential. In fact it exactly is his soft spoken manner and gentle aura that have made him hugely sort after the world over. He travels roughly 100 countries annually, spreading his art of spiritual living to countless followers.

“Time is always new, every day is new and every moment is new. But, when we attend to it with all our attention and enthusiasm we make it a celebration. May 2024 be a year of celebration and service to humanity.” #HappyNewYear2024

43. Prathap C Reddy, 91, Doctor, Entrepreneur

Over the last three decades, India’s medical landscape has seen a massive shift, and in no small measure, Apollo Hospitals and Dr Reddy have played a major role in bringing about this revolution.

After a flourishing (cardiology) practice of his dreams in the US, Dr Reddy was asked by his father to return to India. He soon realised that the medical landscape in the country was plagued by several gaps, such as, poor infrastructure, abysmal delivery, and un-affordability.

The cardiologist turned an entrepreneur at 50, despite a lot of opposition. He founded the first corporate chain of multi-speciality hospitals in India, the Apollo Hospitals.

Dr Reddy has been providing quality healthcare in India since 1983, and there are no signs of him slowing down. As one of the country’s oldest billionaires, he continues to shatter stereotypes by maintaining an active six day work routine.  Also, the most senior person of our influential listers, he says, ‘health has no holiday’. We salute you Sir.

44. Jamshyd Godrej, 75, Industrialist

Over the past few decades, most urban Indian families have been touched by the Godrej brand. From locks and safes to consumer products, electronics and real estate, the group has diversified into various businesses over the years. Helming the flagship company of the 125-year-old group is Jamshyd N. Godrej, Chairman and managing director of Godrej & Boyce.

When it comes to influential personalities in the world of business, Jamshyd Godrej’s name shines bright.  Godrej has made significant contributions to the fields of business, industry, and philanthropy, he has garnered immense respect and recognition for his expertise and achievements.

Here are a few of his quotes based on his fundamental values of passion, self-reliance, inclusivity and professionalism:

‘There must be a great interest and hunger and passion to be part of an organisation and the belief that you have a lot to contribute. We all know that leadership is not about one person, it is about the whole organisation.”

“Just to put the record straight, the entire business has always been run by professionals. We have very few family members who have been involved in all our businesses. So essentially, it is a professionally run business. Yes, there may be a family member at the helm as a chairman, but that’s about it. But really, I strongly value the professional management of the organisation.”

“My grandfather, one of the things he was very keen on when we moved from the old campus to the new one, was that we should be more inclusive for employees, whether it was schooling or housing or health, which continues today. Also, ethical businesses and business practices was another big theme for the family, and that certainly continues. That’s the ethos of our founders that continues. “

45. Dr Naresh Trehan, 78, Surgeon

In 2007, Dr Trehan founded Medanta – The Medicity, one of the largest multi-specialty hospitals in Gurugram, off New Delhi. Over the years, he has performed over 48,000 open-heart surgeries at Medanta, solidifying his reputation as a leading cardiovascular and cardiothoracic surgeon.

Born into a family of doctors, with his mother as a gynaecologist and father as an ENT specialist, Dr Trehan’s early life was steeped in medical influences.

Renowned worldwide for his expertise in cardiovascular surgery, Dr Naresh Trehan has recently made headlines as India’s latest billionaire. At 77, the good doctor achieved this milestone, as shares of Global Health, the operator of Medanta, experienced significant growth in 2023.

Dr.Trehan’s increased net worth not only places him among India’s wealthiest doctors but also acknowledges his substantial contributions to improving the country’s healthcare infrastructure.

“Our goal is to ensure Health for All. The healthcare ecosystem should engage and collaborate with other sectors to achieve sustainable health,” he says.

46. Ravi Shastri, 61, Former cricketer, Former Coach, Commentator,

Ravishankar Jayadritha Shastri is the former head coach of the India national cricket team and a cricket commentator. As a player, he played for the India national cricket team between 1981 and 1992 in both Test matches and ODI’s.

Shastri is known for his unfiltered and candid commentary style. Whether donning the hat of a commentator or serving as the head coach, Shastri wears his heart on his sleeve and isn’t hesitant to express his views. Often dubbed the “voice of cricket,” Shastri has remained prominent during significant cricketing events

His fiery nature and fearless commentary style have him uttering some unique straight hitting remarks, which have gained him over 1m Insta and social media followers.

Here are a couple of samples:

“It is not an idli, it is not a dosa. It is not a medu vada, it is not a rava dosa. It is Uthappa!” – 2010 (referring to great play by Robin Uthappa)

“153/4, 153 all out; if someone went around the corner for a dump and has come back, India have been bowled out for 153” – 2024 (Remarking on the recent India-SA match)

We’ll keep you posted on more Shastrisms, looking forward to the year ahead!

47. Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Educationist, Author

Rudrangshu Mukherjee is a historian and author of several history books. He was formerly the Opinions Editor for The Telegraph newspaper, Kolkata, and the Chancellor for Ashoka University where he also serves as Professor of History. He was the founding Vice-Chancellor of Ashoka when the university began in 2014.

Rudrangshu Mukherjee has taught History at the University of Calcutta and held visiting appointments at Princeton University, University of Manchester and University of California, Santa Cruz. But it’s the rapid strides that Ashoka Univ has taken in less than a decade of existence has earned Mukherjee in our hall of fame.

Mukherjee is internationally acclaimed as a historian of the revolt of 1857 in India. His first book, Awadh in Revolt, 1857-58: A Study of Popular Resistance (1984) has become a standard reference on the subject. He has looked at the 1857 rebellion in four other books: Spectre of Violence: The 1857 Kanpur Massacres (1998), Mangal Pandey: Brave Martyr or Accidental Hero? (2005), Dateline 1857: Revolt against the Raj (2008) and The Year of Blood: Essays on 1857 (2014).

 

48.  Falguni Nayar, 60, Entrepreneur

The Nykaa story is intriguing more so because it aptly defines the proverb “Better late than never!”

In 2009, at 46, Nayar aspired to start a company. She got a few ideas in 2011, including establishing a multi-brand e commerce company.  As a result, she took the risk of leaving a comfortable and lucrative job as a Managing Director in the Kotak Mahindra Group in 2012.

As a lover of cosmetics and beauty products, she founded Nykaa, seeing that there was dearth of holistic beauty retail stores in India. It was in 2013 that the company became popular, and the sales graph saw an upward trend. The growth of Nykaa as a brand is exemplary. Today, Nykaa is proud to sustain over 5 million monthly active users. It offers over 500 top brands of both self-care and makeup and 130,000 products. All these products are available both at the Nykaa app and offline stores.

Nayar took Nykaa public in November 2021, becoming India’s richest self-made female entrepreneur in the process. In 2023, as Nykaa has single-handedly become India’s largest online cosmetics seller.

“Dare to Dream” says the irrepressible beauty boss. Kudos to this enterprising young Indian!

49. Shashi Tharoor – The Wordsmith

“The notion of the possible is precisely that we should not be limited by what we think is possible today.”

Words can’t describe Shashi Tharoor as finely as he can describe them!

One thing is for sure – #tharoorisms have reignited our fascination with the English language.

He is also an Indian politician, writer, and former international diplomat, now serving as Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. But we have him on this list as a master wordsmith.

And while we leave you to decode his quote, we close our list of Most Influential Seniors with our last one…

50. The Unknown Indian

You know who you are.

You may be considered as just an ‘ordinary’ citizen and your extraordinariness goes unsung. Yet you go on…

  • Fighting every weather condition to keep us safe
  • Silently feeding the hungry and warming those shivering with cold, on our streets
  • Running grocery and other small errands for seniors, and those who are home alone
  • Standing by strangers in their distress
  • Feeding and caring for sick and starving stray and wild animals
  • Fighting the good fight by standing up for justice and the truth

The list of good deeds you do is endless

To’ The Unknown Indians’ – YOU are the most powerful influencers of a better India – waking up each day to serve, with no expectation of reward or accolades.

We honour each one of you, and thank you for inspiring others, through your unconditional love and kindness. For making our country and the world a brighter place – every moment, everyday.

Seniors Today Network
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