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2 Indian Americans, 2 Indians Among Fortune Magazine’s ‘World’s 50 Greatest Leaders’

2 Indian Americans, 2 Indians Among Fortune Magazine’s ‘World’s 50 Greatest Leaders’

  • The list features extraordinary achievers who stepped up during the pandemic to respond to the unexpected crisis.

Two Indian Americans and two from India are among Fortune Magazine’s ‘World’s 50 Greatest Leaders’ list, which features extraordinary achievers who stepped up during the pandemic to respond to the unexpected crisis. Fortune says that while some included in the list were already extraordinary achievers in business, government, philanthropy, athletics, and the arts, others were ordinary citizens. In truly unprecedented times, each stepped up to make the world better, and inspired others to do the same.”

Included in the list are Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement; Ashish Jha, Dean, Brown University School of Public Health; Adar Poonawala, CEO, Serum Institute of India; and Aparna Hegde, founder of the India-based non-profit Armaan. 

Varshini Prakash, who is ranked 28th on the list along with co-founder and training officer, Sara Blazevic, helped officially launch the group of youth activists in 2017, and it is now one of the most effective coalitions fighting for climate action in the U.S. As an undergrad at the University of Massachusetts, Prakash took on the fossil fuel industry by pushing her university to stop investing in coal, oil, and gas. She lead the campaign to victory after a 2-week long escalation involving thousands of students, alumni, and faculty. Prakash has been a leading voice for young Americans, including last fall when she helped lead a mass demonstration for the Green New Deal that went viral and put climate change on the map for Congress. She currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts. 

A respected physician and public health scholar, Ashish Jha is a familiar face on cable news channels seeking insight on all matters COVID. Fortune says Jha, who’s ranked 50th on the list, has a way, “both in his public commentary and social media presence, of breaking down complicated public health issues in accessible language. His lack of a government affiliation has also helped him appear more trustworthy to skeptically inclined viewers. Jha’s unrelenting effort to share hard facts, easy-to-understand analysis, and a healthy sprinkling of empathy without judgment is a standard worth aspiring to.”

On the 10th spot is Adar Poonawalla, head of the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. The SII has pledged to deliver up to 2 billion vaccine doses in the coming years to COVAX, a global initiative to provide vaccines to lower- and middle-income countries, and has “already provided more doses to that initiative than any other vaccine maker,” Forbes says. The SII is producing two vaccines – Covishield and Covavax. “Poonawalla has hit some speed bumps in following through with his company’s global promises,” Forbes says, including “a deadly surge in COVID-19 infections in India this spring,” which forced him “to refocus distribution efforts at home,” However, in April Poonawala secured a $400 million investment from India’s government that he says will help the company produce an additional 30 million to 40 million Covishield doses per month and help India address its COVID-19 crisis.

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Aparna Hegde, founder of Armman, an organization focused on bettering outcomes through the use of low-cost technology, is ranked 15th on the list. The genesis of Amman was laid when Hegde, a urogynecologist, witnessed too many horrors delivering babies at a government hospital in Mumbai. Too often she saw an infant or its mother, or both, die in childbirth, “tragedies that could have been avoided with basic prenatal care or more timely dispatching of hospital resources.” 

After five years of struggling to get funding, today Armman represents one of the largest mobile health programs in the world and a lifeline for women in India. It partners with the Indian government and dozens of NGOs in 17 states across the country. When COVID struck, Armman’s network and virtual training platform made it a vital tool in educating women and health workers about the virus and vaccine. The organization also made a quick pivot and launched a virtual clinic to provide antenatal and pediatric care as hospitals converted to COVID centers.

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