Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma and British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed have made it to TIME magazine’s annual list of the “100 Most Influential People” in the world. In a rare feat, Ahmed has not only scored a spot on the list but has also made it to the magazine’s cover.
The list, which was released April 20, recognizes the most influential pioneers, titans, artists, leaders and icons for “the power of their inventions, the scale of their ambitions, the genius of their solutions to problems that no one before them could solve.”
Alongside Modi, U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and Pope Francis have also been honored in the most powerful leaders’ list.
The profile of Modi has been written by author Pankaj Mishra, who wrote that in May 2014, long before Donald Trump seemed conceivable as a U.S. president, Narendra Modi became the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy.
“Once barred from the U.S. for his suspected complicity in anti-Muslim violence, and politically ostracized at home as well, this Hindu nationalist used Twitter to bypass traditional media and speak directly to masses feeling left or pushed behind by globalization, and he promised to make India great again by rooting out self-serving elites,” he said. Nearly three years later, Mishra writes in the essay that Modi’s “vision of India’s economic, geopolitical and cultural supremacy is far from being realized, and his extended family of Hindu nationalists have taken to scapegoating secular and liberal intellectuals as well as poor Muslims.”
He adds that yet Modi’s aura remains undimmed, and describes him as a “maestro of the art of political seduction, playing on the existential fears and cultural insecurities of people facing downward or blocked mobility.”
For Sharma, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani writes that when India’s government unexpectedly scrapped 86 percent of the country’s currency notes in November, 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, he says. By the end of 2016, Paytm had 177 million users, compared with 122 million at the beginning of the year, he adds.
Now backed by Jack Ma of Alibaba, an investor in Paytm, Sharma is branching out into the more heavily regulated world of banking, with plans to offer digital accounts.
Honoring Ahmed in the pioneers’ list, actor, playwright and composer, best known for creating and starring in the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda writes that “Look, Riz Ahmed has been quietly pursuing every passion and opportunity for many years as an actor (‘The Road to Guantánamo,’ ‘Four Lions,’ ‘Nightcrawler’), rapper (‘Post 9/11 Blues,’ ‘Englistan’) and activist (raising funds for Syrian refugee children, advocating representation at the House of Commons).”
Miranda adds that “to know him is to be inspired, engaged and ready to create alongside him. The year 2016 was when all the seeds he planted bore glorious fruit, and here's the best part: he's just getting started.”
He concludes with “Look! We’re alive at the same time as Riz Ahmed! Look!”
The list also includes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, philanthropist Melinda Gates, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, FBI director James Comey, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, actresses Emma Stone and Viola Davis, and musician Ed Sheeran.