Two Indian heavyweights—PM Narendra Modi and Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma—were spotted on TIME's '100 Most Influential People' list that was published earlier today. They were featured in the 'Leaders' and 'Titans' categories respectively.
The list is divided into five categories—Pioneers, Artists, Leaders, Titans, and Icons. PM Modi shares space with fellow leaders of the free world—Theresa May, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, Rodrigo Duterte, and Vladimir Putin, as well as changemakers like Julian Assange and Melinda Gates.
Pankaj Mishra, an award-winning Indian essayist and novelist who authored PM Modi’s profile on the list, writes,
“In May 2014, long before Donald Trump seemed conceivable as a US President, Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy. Once barred from the US for his suspected complicity in anti-Muslim violence, and politically ostracised at home as well, this Hindu nationalist used Twitter to bypass traditional media and speak directly to masses feeling left or pushed behind by globalisation, and he promised to make India great again by rooting out self-serving elites. Nearly three years later, his vision of India's economic, geopolitical, and cultural supremacy is far from being realised, and his extended family of Hindu nationalists have taken to scapegoating secular and liberal intellectuals as well as poor Muslims.
Yet Modi's aura remains undimmed. He is a maestro of the art of political seduction, playing on the existential fears and cultural insecurities of people facing downward or blocked mobility. In March, he won elections in Uttar Pradesh, India's most politically significant state, by a landslide—confirmation that elected strongmen are the chief beneficiaries of a global revolt against elites."
Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s stellar climb was documented by Infosys Co-founder Nandan Nilekani, who wrote,
“In November, when India’s government unexpectedly scrapped 86 percent of the country’s currency notes, Vijay Shekhar Sharma seized the moment. As Indians scrambled to exchange the banned notes for new currency, Paytm, Sharma’s digital payments startup, went on a promotional spree. With a flurry of ads, Sharma invited Indians to start using Paytm’s digital wallet to pay for everyday goods and services.
It worked. By the end of 2016, Paytm had 177 million users, compared with 122 million at the beginning of the year. Vijay had catapulted himself into a nation’s consciousness. It was a masterstroke by a small-town boy who studied in a Hindi medium school before conquering the country’s Anglophone startup world.
Now backed by Jack Ma of Alibaba, an investor in Paytm, Vijay is branching out into the more heavily regulated world of banking, with plans to offer digital accounts. He will face new challenges from deep-pocketed and more-experienced competitors. But knowing Vijay, he will win the next time around too."
The other prominent names on this year's list in the other categories are actors and singers like Oscar-winning Emma Stone, Grammy-winning John Legend, and pop sensation Ed Sheeran in the 'Artists' category, and the likes of Samantha Bee, Constance Vu, and Riz Ahmed in the 'Pioneers' section.
Last year's list had a much better turnout from the Indian newsmakers—with five global Indian icons cracking it— namely Flipkart Co-founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, Priyanka Chopra with her burgeoning career in Hollywood, activist Sunita Narain, and RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan.
It's been a great year for VSS overall, as he also made the billionaire list, clocking a net worth of $1.3 billion, and gained massively from India's paradigm shift towards digital, which was further catalysed by PM Modi's demonetisation ploy.