TIME magazine Feb. 17 unveiled its 2021 cohort of the “TIME100 Next” list, featuring the year’s emerging leaders, with at least eight Indian American and Indian-origin individuals among those recognized.
Among the group were Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Rishi Sunak, Apoorva Mehta, Vijaya Gadde, Dr. Shikha Gupta, Chandrashekhar Azad, Ranga Dias and Rohan Pavuluri.
The list is an expansion of the flagship TIME100 franchise that recognizes 100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future of entertainment, health, politics, business and more.
The 2021 TIME100 Next issue features six worldwide covers, each highlighting a member of the list. Among those featured on the covers was Canadian actor Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, originally from Sri Lanka, as well as performer Dua Lipa, athlete Marcus Rashford, Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin, fashion designer Telfar Clemens and author Brit Bennett.
“When you’re a minority woman with your own show, you gotta represent. It’s a tough job to be in that spotlight, where you are scrutinized for your every action, but it’s exhilarating too,” actor Mindy Kaling writes in an excerpt on Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.
“People come up to you at the airport or online and say those three magic words: “I feel seen.” It’s a huge responsibility—and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is exactly the kind of talented young woman who is up to the task,” Kaling adds.
While she might come off as a carefree teen in her hilarious TikToks and Instagram videos, Maitreyi—who plays the lead role in “Never Have I Ever”—is a gifted comic actress, the veteran Indian American actress, co-creator of the show, adds.
“She studies her craft and takes it seriously. Moreover, she’s an artist who cares deeply about the material she’s performing, and what it’s saying. She has an activist’s heart and wants to use her platform to help others,” Kaling continued.
“What’s most extraordinary about Maitreyi is that when you’re with her, you think you’re simply talking to a cool, smart teenager, but later, when you see her work onscreen, you realize you were actually interacting with a great artist at the beginning of her journey,” Kaling’s excerpt concludes.
In a write-up on Rishi Sunak, Billy Perrigo says that a little more than a year ago, he was an unknown junior minister in the British government. But after the 40-year-old former hedge-fund partner was appointed to lead Britain’s Treasury in February 2020, he quickly became the benevolent face of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, approving large handouts for many citizens whose jobs were disrupted by the virus.
Sunak remains the country’s most popular politician, according to the pollster YouGov. And he’s the oddsmakers’ favorite to be Britain’s next prime minister, the excerpt concludes.
In writing of Indian American Instacart founder and chief executive Apoorva Mehta, Alejandro de la Garza writes, “In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Instacart faced a tidal wave of orders, as people with means opted en masse to pay the service’s workers to buy groceries for them. Apoorva Mehta, the company’s 34-year-old founder and CEO, calls that period a ‘wartime moment’: ‘We just didn’t have enough shoppers.’”
Instacart went on a hiring binge in March 2020, bringing on 300,000 gig workers in a matter of weeks; the next month, it announced it would hire a quarter-million more, the write-up continued.
But as usage soared, Instacart faced new criticism about the way it treated its workers, including labyrinthine sick-pay policies, frequent rule changes for shoppers and demanding performance metrics. And after pouring more than $20 million into a controversial ballot initiative in California, Instacart—alongside other firms such as Uber and Lyft—decisively won that bid last fall to avoid classifying their workers as employees under state law.
Mehta says, “This is going to be a conversation that we’re going to have as a society over the next decade or so,” about the gig economy. In the meantime, Instacart—which raised more than $500 million in venture-capital funding last year—continues to expand.
“The smartphone is the supermarket of the future,” Mehta says in the excerpt. “We are going to help co-create that.”
Twitter top lawyer and head of policy Vijaya Gadde was also named to the list. Perrigo writes that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was on a private island in the Pacific when he found out President Donald Trump had been suspended from his platform. Conveying the news, on Jan. 6, was Gadde.
In a phone call, first reported by the New York Times, Gadde told Dorsey that the decision had been taken to reduce the risk of further violence after the attack on the Capitol earlier that day. Within two days, Gadde and a team of other employees had persuaded a hesitant Dorsey to ban Trump permanently, according to the TIME write-up.
Gadde, 46, is one of Twitter’s most powerful executives. Dorsey has delegated to her Twitter’s content-moderation decisions; she was the architect of the 2019 decision to ban all political advertising, and is responsible for the warning labels that Twitter applied to COVID-19 and election-interference misinformation in 2020, it says.
While Twitter is still home to much misinformation and harassment, Gadde’s influence is slowly turning the company into one that sees free speech not as sacrosanct—but as just one human right among many that need to be weighed against one another, it concludes.
New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim writes about Dr. Shikha Gupta, who was also among those honored on the list, that in a crisis, small acts can make a big impact. And in extraordinary times, ordinary people, driven by service, can do extraordinary things.
“The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic were some of the darkest in America’s history. A leadership vacuum from the White House contributed to health care professionals across the country lacking the personal protective equipment they needed to stay safe and save lives,” Kim writes.
Gupta wasn’t on the White House Task Force. She wasn’t a governor or a member of Congress. She held no title other than doctor and citizen. But when she and her colleagues saw a need—and a hashtag—they met the moment and took action, the write-up continued.
Powered by a dedicated coalition of medical professionals and other team members, the Get Us PPE organization—where Gupta is the executive director—has helped distribute more than 6.5 million pieces of PPE to frontline workers, Kim notes.
“Their fight, like this pandemic, is not done. But across the country, millions of people working to save lives can do so with confidence because of Gupta and her colleagues’ small acts and incredible impact,” the congressman added.
Chandrashekhar Azad, 34, is a Dalit in India who was named to the list.
The movement he leads, the Bhim Army, runs schools to help Dalits escape poverty through education. It also practices a distinct brand of assertiveness, sweeping into villages on loud motorbikes to protect victims of caste-based violence and organizing provocative demonstrations against discrimination, Perrigo writes.
In September 2020, when police in the state of Uttar Pradesh delayed investigation of the fatal gang-rape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman, allegedly perpetrated by four dominant-caste men, Azad and the Bhim Army spearheaded a campaign for justice.
The protests and public outcry that followed eventually led to the accused rapists’ arrests. (They deny the charges.) Azad has also lent his support to several other progressive movements, including recently to farmers protesting against corporate agricultural reforms, TIME adds.
He hopes to turn the reach of the Bhim Army—and his own growing popularity—into wins at the ballot box, and in March 2020 launched a political party.
In writing about honoree Ranga Dias, TIME says, “Let’s be clear: hoverboards, magnetic levitation trains and resistance-free power lines are not coming this year or next. But thanks to Ranga Dias, they’re closer than they ever were.”
Those technologies (and many more) rely on developing new superconductors. The catch is that supercold temperatures have long been necessary for superconductors to work, making them impractical, the TIME excerpt says.
So Dias, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Rochester, came up with a solution that could pave the way for future innovations: a room-temperature superconductor that’s superdense instead of supercold, it adds.
Dias developed a material made of hydrogen, sulfur and carbon, squeezed at a pressure equivalent to 2.5 million atmospheres. The extreme compression eliminates electrical resistance, allowing energy to traverse with ease, according to TIME’s reporting.
Dias is aware of the breakthrough nature of his work. “People have been trying to develop superconductors for a century,” he says. They missed their chance in the 20th. In the 21st, thanks to Dias, they just might succeed.
Upsolve founder Rohan Pavuluri was also honored in the TIME list. Time reports that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put Americans in financial distress, more and more people have lost jobs, incurred expensive medical bills and faced other hardships.
Filing for personal bankruptcy can be an effective way to eliminate debt and re-enter the economy, but high legal fees and complex paperwork can make it difficult to seek that relief, especially for low-income families. That’s why, in 2018, 25-year-old Pavuluri founded Upsolve, a nonprofit that offers a free online tool to help users fill out bankruptcy forms on their own.
To date, Upsolve has helped U.S. users relieve more than $300 million in debt. “We’ve found a way to use technology to address a civil rights injustice at scale,” the Indian American says in the report. (See the India-West article on Upsolve here: https://bit.ly/37pZzIZ).
TIME CEO Edward Felsenthal writes in his letter to readers: "Amid a global pandemic, deepening inequality, systemic injustice and existential questions about truth, democracy and the planet itself, the individuals on this year's list provide 'clear-eyed hope’…They are doctors and scientists fighting COVID-19, advocates pushing for equality and justice, journalists standing up for truth, and artists sharing their visions of present and future."
Of the 2021 list, editorial director of the TIME100 Dan Macsai says in the release, "Everyone on this list is poised to make history. And in fact, many already have."
On Feb. 19 at 1 p.m. ET, TIME will host members of the list for TIME100 Talks Presents the 2021 TIME100 Next, hosted by Ramakrishnan and also featuring Pavaluri.