52 Top Indian Personalities of 2014-2015
December is the month when everybody starts compiling or looking for lists of top 10, top 20 or top 100 types.
Here on the New Year’s Eve, I have tried to organise and publish a list of 52 eminent Indian personalities who made news this year. Some individuals just blazed a trail, some hit milestones while others left a tangible impact in various domains.
To whatever extent possible, I have tried to avoid the villains and dark knights who could possibly be taken up in a separate list.
The rankings are purely driven by my own value judgements and thus have no organisational connect, representative or otherwise.
We would simply love to hear what was your favorite Indian personality this year. Leave your feedback and comments below.
After putting Gujarat on the world map, Modi built his pan-India appeal and created an image of a decisive leader and an entrepreneur who can pull the nation out of economic woes. The 15th Prime Minister of India is also the second most-followed leader in the world with over six million followers on Twitter. The social media-savvy politician became the first to interact with citizens through live chat on the internet. Ranked as the 15th most powerful person in the world by the Forbes magazine, the ‘Development Man of India’ has already created a compelling case for the global companies to come and invest in India.
A devout campaigner against child labour, Kailash Sharma or Satyarthi (bearer of truth) is only the second Indian winner of the Nobel Peace Prize after Mother Teresa. The founder of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), Satyarthi started working as a child rights activist when the country did not have many. He has directly contributed towards protecting the rights of more than 83,000 children from 144 countries. Satyarthi has been the subject of many a documentaries, talk shows, and awareness films.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman and Padma Bhushan Dr. Radhakrishnan created and unleashed a historical moment when Mars Orbiter became first Indian spacecraft to enter Martian orbit in a maiden attempt. In December recently, he also guided ISRO to blast its heaviest ever rocket GSLV Mark-III, paving the road to manned space missions.
The existing president of BJP and PM Modi’s confidante, Amit was ranked among top 3 in the 2014 100 Global Thinkers’ decision-makers category circulated by Foreign Policy magazine in the U.S. The magazine applauded his ‘otherworldly understanding’ in building hype around Modi and steering BJP to a win in the national polls.
Former bureaucrat and current Aam Admi Party (AAP) supremo Kejriwal hogged the political landscape of Delhi during his 49 days of turbulent chief ministership that took a number of controversial decisions. A strong votary of India Against Corruption, he recently ended all speculation by declaring he will contest polls from New Delhi seat.
Known for his spontaneous humour, Kapil Sharma made the biggest climb this year as he ranked 33rd in the Forbes India Celebrity List of 2014. From being an under-paid theatre artist to a most loved host of the popular TV show Comedy Nights with Kapil where almost every Bollywood celebrity wants to promote their films, this man from Amritsar has seen a stellar growth. He is now geared up to make his debut in Bollywood with Abbas Mustan’s upcoming flick Kis Kisko Pyaar Karu.
Ranked as the second-richest actor in the world in 2014, Shah Rukh Khan has an enviable asset worth US$600 million. With 14 Filmfare Awards and other global awards in his kitty, he was declared as the “the biggest movie star you’ve never heard of ” by the Los Angeles Times. King Khan’s latest flick Happy New Year turned out to be the biggest grosser of the year with a collection totalling Rs. 382 crore as of November 2014. The philanthropist in Shah Rukh made him adopt 12 villages to provide with electricity as part of the solar energy harnessing project’s initiative.
Hailed as the thinking man’s actor, Mr. Perfectionist Khan’s latest entry with a poster flashing him in the buff, PK has been rated among 2014′s Top 10 biggest opening movies of Bollywood. His Satyamev Jayate in its third year on TV has well established him as the conscience-keeper of the nation. Not many would know that the great freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was his great grand uncle.
Besides being a yoga guru and a strong proponent of Ayurveda, Baba Ramdev is also a business maven. Owner of a business empire worth Rs.2,000 crore, Ramdev’s net worth is greater than many corporate honchos. A prominent face of the anti-corruption movement, Ramdev is one of the nine people invited by Modi to join the ‘Clean India’ campaign. He has recently announced his plans to open 500 schools to revive Gurukul system of education in India.
The master cricketer is also the youngest recipient of the Bharat Ratna award. Tendulkar also became the first person without an aviation background to receive the honorary rank of group captain by the Indian Air Force. The only player to score more than 30,000 runs in all forms of international cricket, Tendulkar also holds the world record for playing the highest number of Test and ODI matches. Forbes ranked him as the 51st richest sportsman in the world for the year 2013 and also the world’s highest-paid athletes for the same year with total earnings estimated to be $22 million.
The Indian rapper, better known by his stage name Yo Yo Honey Singh, recently became the highest-paid musical artist in Bollywood after he charged Rs. 70 lakh for a song in an upcoming film Mastaan. The year 2014 brought him a flurry of awards including the Global Indian Music Awards and the Zee Cine Awards for International Icon. His all-pervading popularity was felt when he composed the theme song for Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) ahead of the Haryana assembly elections.
The Indian author was adjudged “the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history” by The New York Times. It took just 3 months for his book ‘Revolution 2020′ to sell one million copies. At the age of 36, Bhagat entered the Time magazine’s list of World’s 100 Most Influential People 2010. His debut as a screen writer for the movie ‘Kick’ was a huge success as the Bollywood flick entered the Rs. 200-crore club within two weeks of its release. Having made reading a cool habit among India’s youth, Chetan can boast a following of 4 million on Twitter, way higher than luminaries like Shashi Tharoor and Vijay Mallya.
In a major shake-up at Google, co-founder CEO Larry Page made Sundar the new product king who became responsible for everything that Google offers from search, ads Google+, maps, commerce and infrastructure teams. The meteoric rise of young and brilliant Chennai-born Pichai from a senior vice president to #2 position is a calculated move to continue building vastly successful products aligned with the teenager mindset.
One of the richest candidates to have contested 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Nilekani is worth around Rs 8,000 crore. The man behind the UID campaign, which has delivered 70.43 crore Aadhaar cards in the country as on November 15, is revered for his expertise in implementing e-Governance projects. After the success of UID Campaign, the ex-Infosys chief has started incubating ideas to bring reforms in the Indian education system, especially the primary education.
Music maestro and singer A. R. Rahman has just been announced a top contender for the 87th Oscar in the Original Score category with three songs from movies like Kochadiiyaan, The Hundred Foot Journey and Million Dollar Arm.
From being a quintessential ‘bahu’ and a popular face of Indian television to holding an important portfolio of Human Resource Development Minister, Smriti Irani’s rise in politics has been steady. Within days of assuming office, the Minister had to face the flak for announcing plans to give a “Hindu perspective” to school curriculum. The youngest member in Modi’s cabinet has set herself on the task of reforming the teacher education system. Smriti also runs an NGO that provides water solutions to villages.
The Indian vice-captain holds the unique record of scoring the fastest century by an Indian batsman. A naturally aggressive batsman, Kohli is looked upon as the next big thing in Indian cricket after Tendulkar. Ranked as the 2nd most marketable athlete in the world by a sports magazine, Virat Kohli overtook Dhoni in terms of brand value after signing a Rs.10-crore deal with Adidas. Virat recently surpassed the cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar as the most followed sportsperson on Twitter.
India’s one of the most distinguished constitutional lawyers has spent six decades in courtrooms. Nariman had received much brickbats for arguing in favour of Dow chemicals in the Bhopal gas disaster case. He has been vocal in his demand for procedural reforms in the Supreme Court. In his book The State of the Nation, Nariman sought answer to a pertinent question, “Who Will Judge the Judges ?” Nariman has accused the Modi government of not doing anything to stop “hate-speech” against Muslims. The celebrated jurist was chosen by NDTV as one of the 25 living Indian legends.
Known as controversy’s favourite child, the ex-Union Minister and former diplomat got his share of news space for reasons more than one. Even before the furore over an alleged relationship with a Pakistani journalist could fade away, the unnatural death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar did raise suspicion about his role. Tharoor was dropped as the official spokesperson of the Congress party for accepting Modi’s invitation to be one of the nine brand ambassadors of Swacch Bharat mission. Widely considered as the ‘New Age Politician’, Tharoor stays connected with more than 26 lakh followers on Twitter. His paternal uncle, T. Parameshwar, was the founder of Readers Digest in India.
Hand-picked by Modi to lead the Defence Ministry, Manohar Parrikar is the new entrant in the Union Cabinet. He is considered the one who made BJP acceptable in Goa – a state with a significant Christian vote. Within one month of assuming office, the ex-Goa Chief Minister zeroed in on indigenisation of defence equipment to reduce the dependence on imports. Besides aiming 100 percent indigenisation in some equipment, the IIT Bombay alumnus has also set his eyes on building infrastructure to start exporting defence equipment.
Nicknamed ‘Magnificent Mary’, this fighter from Manipur became the first Indian woman boxer to get a Gold Medal in the Asian Games in 2014. The biopic on Mary Kom grossed a whopping Rs.104 crores worldwide within one month of its release. Both Padma Bhushan and Arjuna Award came her way in 2013. She is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics and won a bronze medal.
Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh led Yahoo India’s 2014 search list of finance newsmakers. Despite a tough economic environment, he managed to grow his business exponentially and is mulling to invest over Rs.1.5 lakh crores in new ventures ahead. His recent decision to soft launch Reliance Jio this year in 4G segment is seen as a game-changer in the telecom world. The takeover of Network 18, India’s large media conglomerate has also signalled its intentions to consolidate its interests in media market.
The first ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to be appointed as the Governor of a state, Sathasivam became a controversial figure after he blocked CBI’s efforts to bring a separate murder case against Amit Shah, the BJP President, in the fake encounter case in Gujarat. His appointment as the Governor of Kerala is seen as a favour received from BJP. In his capacity as the CJI, he delivered the judgment in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, sentencing Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt to five years of imprisonment.
Sachin and Binny Bansal
Founders of now-famous e-commerce store Flipkart, Sachin and Binny Bansal took its valuation to over $11 billion this month. After cornering an additional $700 million this month, speculation is rife that Flipkart may go public. The Bansals acquired fashion etailer Myntra in May and sparked a storm in October when their Big Billion Day Sale over Rs.600 crores within 10 hours.
The Snapdeal co-founder and COO Rohit Bansal was instrumental in setting up India’s second-largest e-commerce firm after Flipkart. With over 1400 employees and 50,000 sellers selling five million products on his site, Rohit has plans to have over 100,000 sellers by next year. Snapdeal has already raised over $800 million funding this year, which will be used for infrastructure development for mobiles and sourcing talent.
Peyush is the founder of the highly successful online eyewear brand Lenskart. Under his leadership, the brand has seen a whopping 300 percent growth since inception and is making 2000 shipments a day. Lenskart was seriously considering a funding of $25 million from an American private equity fund.
The new president of the News Broadcasters Association is also one of the few journalists to have regular access to Modi. His signature show Aap Ki Adalat, which celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2014, has quizzed over 750 celebrities. Known for making subtle-yet-pointed questions, Rajat had predicted Modi’s clean sweep in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, much before anyone could predict.
Sixty-year old industrialist Agarwal’s journey from a scrap-dealer to a billionaire is stuff dreams are made of. His Vedanta group is now regarded as one of most diversified natural resources company in the world at Rs. 77,400 crore net worth. His pledge to give away 75 percent of his wealth to charity in September signalled a great philanthropic move.
The “celebrity central banker”, who came to the limelight for predicting the 2008 global recession, is receiving admiration from all quarters for not succumbing to demands of lowering lending rates. The ex-chief economist at the International Monetary Fund has been fighting for RBI’s autonomy ever since he was appointed as its Governor. Rajan was recently conferred the Best Central Bank Governor award for 2014 by Euromoney Magazine. His book Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy had won the Financial Times-Goldman Sachs award for Best Business Book.
Nobel-laureate Dr. R.K. Pachauri is the chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and director general, The Energy & Resources Institute. PM Modi has decided to retain him while restructuring the high-level council on climate change recently. An industrial engineern and economist by training, he is a noted leader on energy and environment issues.
The CEO and MD of ICICI, India’ second largest bank, Chanda steered it past the Rs.10,000 crore net profit during 2013-14. Currently on a three-year extension, her latest focus on mobile banking in rural areas has received much praise as a cost-effective expansion model for banking in India.
Widely considered as one of the greatest finishers in limited-overs cricket, the captain of Indian cricket team has brought the winds of change. Dhoni has the best Test and ODI records among all Indian captains. Over the years, he has built the reputation of delivering even in the most hostile situation. Dhoni ranked 22nd in the 2014 Forbes list of highest paid athletes in the world. His earnings in 2014 is estimated at $30 million. A biopic on Dhoni, M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, is slated to be released in 2015.
The ‘comeback man’ of Indian cricket created history after becoming the highest individual ODI scorer with 264 runs against Sri Lanka in November 2014. Sharma also became the only player to score two double hundreds in ODI cricket match. A permanent member of the Indian national team, Sharma is also pegged as one of the most successful players in IPL having a unique record of finishing the match by scoring a last-ball six.
After hitting the headlines for being the first non-founding CEO & MD of Infosys, Vishal has started to make his mark by building the company’s capabilities in the social, mobility, analytics and cloud sector. Vishal is regarded as the creator of the ‘timeless software’ concept, which focusses on renewal of products without any disruption to customer environments. Under his guidance, Infosys has started to build its capabilities in new technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to design thinking.
The chairman of Reliance Group, Anil was back in action after he acquired the hydropower assets of Jaiprakash Associates for around $2 billion outsmarting Gautam Adani’s bid. He was among the nine Indians chosen by prime minister for Swachh Bharat campaign. The Mumbai Metro under Reliance Infrastructure became functional creating a global record with 30 million commuters in mere100 days.
The 72-year legendary screen icon recently won the International Icon of the Year award at the recent Sansui-COLORS Stardust Awards. A social media pro, his Facebook following crossed 18 million on Facebook and 12 million on Twitter. His upcoming Wazir promises a great action thriller flick for all his fans.
Udai Shankar, CEO of Star India, made a very positive difference to media and storytelling and was conferred Person of the Decade 2014 award. He effectively tried to stimulate social change through series like Satyamev Jayate and gave a new boost to coverage of forgotten sports like Kabaddi and Hockey in India where nothing but cricket prevails as a religion.
With a pay package of around Rs. 520 crores, Nadella is among the highest paid CEOs in the world. As a change maker, Nadella is aggressively helping Microsoft to make inroads on mobile and the very latest example is the acquisition of email maker Acompli for $200 million. Ever since the Indian-origin technocrat came at the helm, Microsoft’s revenues have risen 14 percent to $67 billion.
The co-founder of the biggest airline in India is known for his smart moves. With a market share of 33.5%, he has already made Indigo the biggest success story of Indian aviation industry. Rahul’s aggressive expansion plans have charted the course for Indigo, which is the only airline to have sustained its profit margin despite difficult operating environment. The company has ordered a whopping 530 planes ever since it came into existence in 2006. For five years in succession, Indigo has won the Skytrax Awards for being the ‘Best low-cost carrier.’
Sunil Bharti Mittal
Founder-chairman and group CEO of Bharti Enterprises is the sultan of nation’s telecom revolution. Airtel crossed the high mark of 300 million subscribers and in February, the company purchased extra spectrum estimated at $3 billion. He pledged $16 million to build toilets in rural areas of Ludhiana in response to Modi’s call for rural sanitation.
Arnab as a star news anchor won many hearts through his most-viewed TV show The Newshour on Times Now channel. An effective articulator of middle class frustrations over corruption and terrorism, his controversial interviews included likes of Lalu Yadav, Rahul Gandhi, Vinod Rai to Narendra Modi this year.
The Vice-President of the Congress party has long been carrying the tag of a ‘reluctant politician’ whose comments on political and issues have courted huge controversies and gone viral on social media. Known for conducting extensive tours across the country and reaching out to poor, Rahul was chosen the CNN-IBN Politician of the Year quite early in his political career “for emerging as the rallying spirit of the Congress and the face of India’s young politicians.”
Wipro chairman Azim Premji pioneered a new era of philanthropic leadership by donating half of his fortune to a trust. Leading key educational initiatives through Azim Premji Foundation, he also figured in the top 10 list of Asian tech billionaires 2014 with a net worth of $16 billion. E-commerce industry has recently caught Premji’s fancy and he has made substantial investments in Myntra and Snapdeal.
Y. C. Deveshwar
ITC Ltd chairman Deveshwar was adjudged the 7th best CEO worldwide by Harvard Business Review this year. He committed ITC’s full support in making PM Modi’s ‘Make in India‘ initiative a success. Under his stewardship, ITC diversified beyond tobacco business into food and hospitality, actually netting over 55 percent of its overall revenues from new segments.
Kiran Majumdar Shaw
Leading the Business Today‘s Top 13 Most Powerful Women in Indian Business is Kiran, founder of India’s leading listed biotechnology firm Biocon. In a first-of-its-kind tie-up globally, Biocon and Mylan together sought to introduce biosimilar for breast cancer treatment among Indian women in January. Her latest tweet about genetically modified technology triggered a huge controversy on Twitter.
The Vice-Chairman & Managing Director of Hero Motocorp is a proud captain of the ship that has steered past its rivals to emerge as the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer. His business acumen has worked wonders for the company which not only sold 547,413 units in November but also launched its operations in Colombia. Under his stewardship, Hero Motocorp became India’s first automobile company to cross cumulative production of 50 million two-wheelers.
Dubbed as one of the most influential women in the male-dominated technology industry, Warrior is the chief technology and strategy officer at Cisco. She is often regarded by many as the future CEO whenever current incumbent John Chambers steps down. An alumnus of IIT-New Delhi, Warrior and a Cornell graduate, she has grown the company’s fortunes to over $4.2 billion through a series of business deals.
Badminton player Kashyap again proved his mettle by winning an individual gold medal in the Commonwealth Games 2014 at Glasgow. He thus became the third Indian after Prakash Padukone and Syed Modi to do so. Earlier he earned the distinction of being the first shuttler to reach the quarterfinals of the Olympics.
Described as “the most important industrialist” in both India and Britain, the Irish businessman and the chairman of $138-billion Tata Group is known for taking hard decisions. From driving organisational changes to focusing on consolidation, the head of the salt-to-software conglomerate plans to make Tata Group among the top 25 in the world over the next decade. He has recently announced his plans to invest $35 billion in next three years. Mistry has also set a trend by being upfront about the fact that he has allow write-downs of $2.2 billion.
Olympic bronze medalist and current World No.4 Indianshuttler, Saina continued on her journey to the pinnacle of world badminton. Her fans would remember in December 2010, she even climbed to number 2 ranking of the Badminton World Federation.
Renu Sood Karnad
Besides being the MD of HDFC Bank, Renu led the bank to a net profit of Rs. 5440 crore in financial year 2014, which was 12% higher than the previous year. She also features among the highest paid female corporate heads with a package of Rs 7.16 crore during 2014.
A 23 year old Indian-American law student at the University of Dayton, Niraj became one of the youngest state legislators when he got elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. Where the average age of US state representatives is 57, the election of Antani heralds the importance of youth in politics.