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Young South Asian Americans in Entertainment, Food and Media Feature in Forbes 30 Under 30 List

Young South Asian Americans in Entertainment, Food and Media Feature in Forbes 30 Under 30 List

  • They are among 600 innovators, entrepreneurs and entertainers included for their achievements in diverse fields.

Karam Gill, 27, made his directorial debut in 2017 with “G Funk,” a documentary about the untold story of Warren G, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and the rise of hip-hop’s iconic sub-genre. The Los Angeles-based filmmaker and creative director is among three Indian Americans included in the Hollywood & Entertainment category for Forbes 30 Under 30. The list, which is released on Dec. 1 each year to honor and showcase the top people under 30 years old in different industries.

“G Funk” had its World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, making Karam the youngest director to have a feature documentary premiered at SXSW at 22. The documentary had its European Premiere at the BFI London International Film Festival and was eventually sold to YouTube Originals.

Gill recently partnered with Universal Music Group on the doc series “Ice Cold” which uses jewelry to explore deeper themes around materialism and race in hip-hop. The series is executive produced by Migos & Quality Control (releasing 2021). He also wrote/directed the “Supervillain” doc series for Showtime – in partnership with Rolling Stone, Lightbox and Imagine Entertainment.

Also listed are producer Mohan Mandali and entrepreneur Naomi Shah. 

Mandali, 27, is a producer at Fabel Entertainment, where he identifies genre and nerd culture content and while promoting BIPOC content. He’s currently shepherding a series on the life and published work of famed neurologist Oliver Sacks with known showrunner Greg Berlanti and Fox.

Shah, 26, is the founder of Meet Cute, a venture-backed entertainment company that has created more than 350 original, scripted rom-com stories in podcast form. Shah’s goal is for Meet Cute to tell inclusive stories about human connection that are relatable for every type of listener.

Maneet Khaira and Kirin Sinha feature in the Games section of the list. 

Khaira, 24, founded Backbone in 2018, his senior year at Columbia University, “raising $1 million in investment that included Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and gaming creators Nadeshot, MrBeast, and Preston.” The company launched at the end of 2020 and now its core product, an attachable gaming controller for iPhones that requires no charging, is the top selling product in its category on Amazon. In June, Backbone integrated its software product to Xbox for use on Xbox Game Pass on iOS.

Sinha, 28, founder of Illumix, is building the first dedicated game engine for augmented reality, and the early returns have been promising. Illumix’s debut game has been downloaded more than 18 million times, generating millions in revenue. Sinha’s outfit is currently working with Disney to bring its AR technology to theme parks, retail and ecommerce, as well as luxury jewelry brands to improve the virtual “try on” experience. So far, Illumix has raised $13 million in funding.

Shray BansalArjun Mehta and their partner Nidgel Egrari are listed in the media category. They launched livestream platform Moment House to connect artists and their core fans for global, elevated ticketed experiences, such as concerts, interviews and poetry readings. They’ve hosted elevated live-streamed events with celebrities like St. Vincent, Halsey, and Brockhampton, as well as overseeing the ticketing for Justin Bieber’s New Year’s Eve livestream. Moment House has secured $13.5 million in funding from investors including Scooter Braun, Jared Leto and Halsey.

Also included in the media Krithika Vagur, 28, has spent four years covering religion, politics, extremism and corruption in Southeast and South Asia for outlets including The Washington Post and The Guardian. In 2020, she authored “The Call: Inside the Global Saudi Religious Project,” a book about Saudi influence in the Muslim world. Until October, she was the youngest staff columnist at The Wall Street Journal, covering millennials at work. She now works as a senior speechwriter at Fenway, a communications firm founded by President Barack Obama’s former chief speechwriter Jon Favreau and national security spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Aakash Sastry, 25, co-founder of Itsme, an avatar-based social network, is among those in the media category. “We wanted to create a way to unlock connections around the world where you’d be able to be comfortable and confident meeting new people,” he told Forbes in April 2021 when ItsMe secured $15.2 million in funding from Alexis Ohanian, Allen and Co. and others. ItsMe has over 4 million registered users, who send 5 million-plus messages a day. They’re glued to the app, spending an average of 30 minutes daily there.

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Joining Sastry is 25-year-old Varshini Satish, senior associate at Snap, who is charged with helping grow Snap’s pool of creators, bringing in influencers. She also led the development of Snap’s new micro-monetization tool, Gifting. Before joining Snap in April, she was at TikTok, where, in 2020, she worked on TikTok’s presence at New York Fashion Week and its Black History Summit.

Prasanna Lachagari, 26, is the lone Indian American in the category. The Hyderabad-born Lachagari is a design director at SDI Architecture. After moving to Boston to pursue a master’s in architecture, she ended up staying in the city and has become the design director of local firm SDI Architecture and founding partner of SDI Design India. She’s currently working on a nonprofit that provides steady incomes and stable jobs to locals in Kakinada.

Ameet Kallarackal and Nick Loeper co-founded Fisherman in 2018, which builds a complete restaurant website in two minutes using just a business’s name. They are among several young entrepreneurs listed in the Food & Drink category. They’ve raised more than $1 million and have over 1,000 customers through the U.S. and Canada.

Anika Sawni, the CEO and co-founder of Toronto-based Gruvi studied neuroscience at McGill before teaming up with her brother Niki to launch a non-alcoholic wine and beer line. Gruvi drinks are sold across more than 1,500 stores including WholeFoods, Total Wine, Target and Canadian grocery chain Sobeys. Sales grew more than 400% in the past year.

Also included is Ali Jawad of Taystee’s Burgers. Three weeks before his 21st birthday, the Pakistani American drained his $20,000 in life savings to open a burger joint, Taystee’s Burgers, in his grandpa’s gas station just outside of Detroit, Michigan. Jawad, a college drop-out, started serving halal versions of classic American food like burgers, hot dogs and wings. Today, he has two Michigan locations that he says will rake in $3.5 million in revenue this year.

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