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11 South Asian American Women in Forbes ’50 Over 50’ List of Founders, Innovators and Creators

11 South Asian American Women in Forbes ’50 Over 50’ List of Founders, Innovators and Creators

  • The 200 women included in the third annual collection “are behind brands used by millions, breaking world records and forging technological breakthroughs,” according to the magazine.

Eleven South Asian American women are on the third annual Forbes ’50 Over 50’list, “a collection of founders, innovators and creators” who are behind “brands used by millions, breaking world records and forging technological breakthroughs.” Forbes says these 200 women are “proof positive that success and innovation can happen at any age.” This edition “stands out for the number of founders and owners amid its ranks,” Forbes says. “Nearly half of the 200 women in this year’s collection have either founded or own their business, the highest-ever proportion in three years.”

Included among visionaries who are reshaping entertainment and culture is author Alka Joshi, 65, of Pacific Grove, California. She published her debut novel “The Henna Artist” in 2020 at age 62. “She began writing the book in 2010, but the ten years of work paid off,” Forbes says, adding that it “became a global phenomenon.Within a year and a half of publication, Netflix announced it would develop the book into a television series starring Freida Pinto.. Set in 1950s India, “The Henna Artist” tells the story of 17-year old Lakshmi Shastri (Pinto), who escapes from an abusive marriage and makes her way alone to Jaipur in Rajasthan. There, she becomes the most highly sought-after henna artist — and confidante — to the wealthy women of the upper class. Joshi told Forbes that “four decades after immigrating to the U.S., her passion to inform the world about India through historical fiction took root in her 50s, when she traveled back to her birth country with her mother.” She published two more books since then, and has a contract with Harper Collins to produce two more by 2025

GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley; Sarita Mohanty, president and CEO, The SCAN Foundation; Ghazal Qureshi, founder & CEO, UpBrainery Technologies; and S.Mona Sinha, global executive director, Equality Now are among women included under the Impact category. 

Nikki Haley, 51, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and the former governor of South Carolina, announced her intent to become the Republican party’s candidate for president in February. The daughter of Indian immigrants, became the first Indian American to serve in a presidential cabinet. She is also the only woman and only person of color to have led South Carolina, her home state. She graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Based in Long Beach, California, Sarita Mohanty, 53, became the second CEO and president of The SCAN Foundation, a California-based healthcare nonprofit focused on improving care for older adults through policy, impact investing and grant making. She was 50 then. She came to the foundation from Kaiser Permanente, “where she served as vice president of care coordination for Medicaid and vulnerable populations,” Forbes said. She completed medical school at Boston University and residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She holds an M.P.H. from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from UCLA.

Pakistan-born Ghazal Qureshi, 54, of Houston Texas, founded UpBrainery Technologies in 2020, just after she turned 51. Within months of its launch, the startup formed partnerships with Whataburger, Nasdaq and the Girl Scouts. She told Forbes that she aims to “expand online education through AI, machine learning and a neuroscience-backed curriculum. Today, her company “offers a curriculum that exceeds 10,000 hours and a reach that spans 13 countries.” She has also founded IDEA Lab Kids. Established in 2011, the franchise allows kids aged four to 14 to explore the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) fields via online and in-person programming.

Growing up in Kolkata, S. Mona Sinha developed an interest in humanitarian efforts while volunteering at Mother Teresa’s orphanage in the city.  After immigrating to the U.S. in 1985 to attend Smith College, and a long corporate career, the 58-year-old now leads Equality Now, an NGO that has advocated for the rights and protections of women and girls around the world since 1992. Before joining the NGO, she worked at various companies like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Unilever. She now “applies learnings from that world to scale Equality Now’s mission-driven initiatives,” Forbes says. She has chaired boards for the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition, Breakthrough and Women Moving Millions (WMM). She serves on the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum board.

Amena Ali, CEO, Optoro; and Monica Jain, founder, Fish 2.0 Ventures are among “disruptors breaking new technological grounds.” 

Based in Washington, D.C. Ameena Ali was appointed CEO at Optoro last year at age 58. The logistics platform using AI to streamline returns for large retailers works with companies like Best Buy, Gap and IKEA to get returned products back in stock in just a day, compared with industry averages of 30 days. Under her leadership, the company has partnered with Locus Robots to further automate the returns process. Ali came to Optoro after serving as CEO of Airside Mobile, which provides digital passports and other digital identity services. Before that, she was CEO at VividCortex, a database monitoring company.

A decade ago, at age 50, Monica Jain merged her passion for the ocean with her expertise in finance to co-found Fish 2.0 Ventures and grow the blue economy — businesses that improve the health of the world’s seas and marine life. Fish 2.0 has connected more than 600 entrepreneurs in the seafood industry to a network of 500 private investors and facilitated investments of over $400 million. Jain, who also founded and heads a consulting firm called Manta Consulting, works directly with Fish 2.0 businesses to advise them and help them scale. She was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood in 2016 for her impact on the industry.

See Also

The Investment category includes “rainmakers commanding wealth and seeing the future.” A finance executive with over 30 years of experience and a passion for social justice, Geeta Aiyer founded Boston Common Asset Management, a majority women- and employee-owned sustainable investment firm, in 2003. In 2015, Aiyer became the first U.S. asset manager to serve on the board of UN PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment), which encourages investors to adopt sustainable investing.In 2013, Aiyer received the SRI Service Award, recognizing leadership and innovation in SRI (Sustainable, Responsible, Impact) investing.

Joining her is Mala Gaonkar, founder, SurgoCap Partners; Ranji Nagaswami, Chief Strategy and Chief Commercial Officer, Strategic Value Partners; and Purnima Puri, 51, governing partner and head of Liquid Credit, HPS Investment Partners. 

Mala Gaonkar, 53, founded SurgoCap Partners in 2022. The New York investment firm focuses on disruptive technologies across broad industry categories. This January, the businesswoman and co-portfolio manager has created history by overseeing the biggest-ever launch of a hedge fund headed by a woman. On Jan. 3, she began trading with an estimated $1.8 billion in trading under management. This marked the largest hedge fund launch led by a woman ever. Before this, the U.S.-born and Bangalore-raised Gaonkar founded the Surgo Foundation with Sema Sgaier in 2015 to invest in AI-powered technology that can solve global health problems. In her spare time, she loves to write. Her short stories have appeared in Catamaran, Carolina Quarterly, and American Short Fiction.

Ranji Nagaswami, 59, is chief strategy and chief commercial officer at Strategic Value Partners,  global investment firm managing nearly $18 billion in private credit, distressed debt and private equity investments. From 2010 to 2012, the Greenwich, Connecticut based Indian American chaired the NYC Retirement System as chief investment advisor to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, overseeing the city’s pension funds. In 2016, she became the founder and lead moderator for the Aspen Finance Leaders Fellowship (FLF). Today there are 125 Aspen Finance Fellows around the world. She has served on the Yale University investment committee, the UAW VEBA investment advisory council, and the Curtis Institute investment advisory council.

Purnima Puri, 51, governing partner and head of Liquid Credit at HPS Investment Partners leads the company’s $22 billion liquid credit business. Under her leadership, the firm launched new investment vehicles in 2022. Before joining HPS in 2007, Puri was a principal at Redwood Capital Management, a credit opportunities hedge fund. Prior to that, she worked at Goldman Sachs on both its credit arbitrage desk and principal investment areas. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University, the Board of Dean’s Advisors of Harvard Business School, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ financial sector advisory council.

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