- In almost every field of endeavor, innovative South Asian Americans excelled to make it to the coveted list of 2021 honorees in the most challenging year in recent memory.
Forbes magazine had its 10th anniversary of releasing the list of 30 under 30 achievers for North America in December. In a year when a pandemic induced economic downturn crippled nations, 600 young entrepreneurs, activists, scientists and entertainers defied odds to build businesses, or help to fight Covid-19, serving on hospital frontlines or working with AI to discover new drugs. They have together raised over $1 billion in funding.
If the first list of honorees released in 2011 drew criticism for lack of inclusion and diversity, it is clear that the editors responsible for selection have come a long way, considering that nearly half of those on the 2021 list — 49.3 percent self-identify as a person of color. At least 20 percent are immigrants from 62 countries.
The gender gap is closing too, with 59 percent male, 40 percent female and 1 percent non-binary. The average age is 26.6 and 12 percent are GenZ (23 or younger) and the two youngest are aged 15. About 63 percent of the list makers are founders or co-founders of companies. Many more are leading innovations that will seed companies down the line.
Approximately 10 percent of the honorees are persons of South Asian origin, either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants from the Indian Subcontinent.
Here is a list of honorees in specific fields:
Advertising and Marketing
Chirag Kulkarni, 25, is a featured honoree, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of online pharmacy Medley, which has raised $110 million. In 2017, He sought to build a better drugstore when he was tired of long lines at the pharmacy. By July of 2020 Medley had served 70,000 patients with over 500,000 prescriptions and almost $200 million in revenue.
Apoorva Dornadula 25, co-founded Viralspace, which uses AI to help marketers make data-driven decisions about their images and videos. Having raised $1.7 million, the company’s clients include Ogilvy, Minted and TechStyle.
Anish Dalal, 29, co-founded Sapphire Apps Media, a marketing agency that provides content for brands to run on paid media. The company has worked with TikTok, Disney, American Idol and Viacom and generated over 1 billion views on social media.
E-Commerce and Retail
Nathan Kondamuri, 26, co-founder of Pair Eyewear, finds mention as a featured honoree. He was inspired when, while a senior at Stanford, his younger brother required glasses and he realized the options were boring and expensive. Along with classmate Sophia Edelstein, he introduced A-line glasses starting at $60, with customizable frames starting at $25. Since appearing on Shark Tank earlier this year, they have inked licensing partnerships with Harry Potter, Marvel and NBA Labs. They have even begun manufacturing and have raised $4.1 million and are expecting a revenue of $3.1 million.
Chai Mishra, 25, started Move in 2017 to let people order their groceries directly from the source. Mishra has collaborated with over 60 Michelin star chefs, celebrity bakers, creameries, farms and ranches to develop new products. He has raised $3.5 million and sales are projected at $2.7 million this year.
Viyay Jeyapalan and Vino Jeyapala, 29-year-old twins and former Facebook employees, are founders of Kabo, Canada’s largest direct-to-consumer fresh dog food brand. They raised $ 4 million in funding and project revenues of $3 million this year.
Sib Mahapatra, 29, co-founded Branch Furniture in 2018, along with friend Verity Sylvester to offer high quality, affordable office furniture to start-ups ready to graduate from WeWork. They had just closed their first 7-figure deal installation of 900 workstations for TouchBistro in Toronto, when the pandemic hit. As offices emptied, they rushed to cater to the work-from-home set, convincing Facebook, Shopify, Salesforce and hundreds of other companies to offer a special employee discount. The company has raised $ 3.9 million and sales are projected to hit $ 6 million this year.
Rohan Shah, 28, and his co-founders launched Extend in 2019 to make it easier for merchants to offer extended warranties and protection plans online. They have signed 100-plus customers like Peloton, iRobot, Logitech etc. Customers can file claims online easily and the company gets a cut on each warranty sale and has raised $56 million in funding.
Manufacturing and Industry
Randeep Singh, 26, co-founded AON3D, along with two others, right after college, to design 3D printers that use a wide range of high performance materials. Customers print high-strength parts at a cost that is as little as a tenth of the standard rate, allowing affordable production of even small volumes. It has raised $14.2 million and customers include Siemens, NASA, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
Sahir Zaveri, 28, Dave Lee, co-founded King Children, a sustainable eyewear company that guarantees zero-waste in an industry notorious for overproduction. Every pair is made to order and custom fit using 3D printing, enabling the brand to produce only what customers want. Immigrants from India and China, they have raised $2 million and are based in Brooklyn, New York.
New York-based Krishna Manda, is co-founder of Etho. He was riding his motorcycle in Brooklyn when a car attempting an illegal u- turn collided with him, severing his right arm. While doctors reattached his limb with titanium plates and screws, A dropout of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Manda wanted to reduce risk of similar injury or death for others. Along with his team he has created smart helmets that would give riders information on GPS, speed and nearby vehicles with a heads up display that let them keep their eyes on the road.
Prakriti Gaba, 28, cardiology fellow at Harvard Medical School, is one of the featured honorees for her work on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inspired by this tragic experience, she began to advocate for change to increase the speed and efficiency of clinical trials that could lead to new treatments. She was the first author of an article in Nature Reviews Cardiology detailing ways to transform the clinical trial process and incorporate remote consent and monitoring programs, as well as more diverse patient recruitment.
Pooja Chandrashekhar, 23, MD candidate, Harvard Medical School is noted for her research that uses data analytics to improve the quality of care. A commentary she wrote arguing for states to mutually recognize medical licenses was used for advance legislation on telemedicine licensing reform. During the pandemic, she started a literacy project to translate Covid-19 information into 40+ languages.
Sandeep Konam, 25, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is co-founder of Abridge AI, a consumer app that uses artificial intelligence to securely transcribe recorded medical conversations. Konam, who has a Masters in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, leads Abridge’s machine learning team. The startup has raised $15 million in funding so far.
Shramik Jain and Ravi Shah, both 24, co-founded Marigold Health, an AI based app that enables 24/7 peer super groups for people with mental health and substance use disorders. Marigold is not meant to replace behavioral health providers, but to partner with them and help provide support. Researchers are currently conducting an NIH funded study to evaluate the potential role of Marigold in helping patients with opioid addiction.
Hersh Patel has found mention as co-founder of Hindsight. Launched in 2017 to help publications figure out how to effectively place ads as cookie-tacking is phased out by the major internet browsers. Its software is used by sites like FOCO and FanDuel to place ads based on the content of the article, rather than the reader’s data history. With Patel as CEO, the company has raised 41 million.
Anil Mohan and Neel Rao, both 28, co-founded Gamesnack as part of Google’s in-house incubator Area 120. A pseudo-homage to flash minima websites, FameSnacks offers more than 100 HTML games, particularly a gaming option for people with low internet quality or budget devices, and has a reach of millions of players monthly.
Food and Drink
Sana Javeri Kadri, 27, has found mention for her business Diaspora Co launched in 2017 from her $3,000 tax refund, to source and sell ethically farmed turmeric. She had moved to California from India for college, Today, the company works with nearly a dozen small family farms across India, paying an average six times more than the commodity price and sells seven spices including coriander and cardamom. Kadri has managed to go beyond basic business by paying for healthcare of some laborers on the farms, and aims to provide coverage to all.
Priya Krishna, 29, Brooklyn-based author, is a YouTube cooking personality and a contributor to publications including the New York Times, New York magazine, Eater, Food & Wine, and Bon Appetit. She’s currently pitching a TV show and writing a new cookbook with Momofuku founder David Chang.
Bharath Alamanda, 28, New York-based Investment Analyst at Pershing Square Capital Management, has found special mention as an analyst who worked to develop a $27 million hedge fund during the pandemic. It generated total proceeds of $ 2.6 billion. Allamanda was responsible for analyzing, pitching and tracking hedges like buying credit protection on corporate bonds.
Brooklyn-based Hamel Kothari, 26, co-founded Brigit in 2017 to help low and middle-income Americans better manage their finances. The app provides budgeting advice and prevents users from incurring overdraft fees by moving money into their accounts. Kothari manages all of the company’s technology and credit risk. It had a revenue of $19 million last year and expects $30 million this year. It is profitable and has 250,000 paying users.
Anoushka Mehta, 28, from Brooklyn, head of Gender Lens Finance, HSBC, is commended for overseeing the big bank’s efforts to provide capital to social enterprises and women-run businesses, executing transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars. She also manages HSBC’s coverage of public sector institutions like the World Bank, executing $15 billion of transactions in order finance development projects in emerging markets.
Amiti Uttarwar, 28, Nevada-based Bitcoin Protocol Engineer at Bitcoin Core, is the first known woman Bitcoin Core contributor who received a joint $150,000 grant from OKCoin and HDR Global, in June, making her one of the few paid coders developing bitcoin’s underlying code. The daughter of Indian immigrants, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and veteran of Silicon Valley startups, she represents a new movement of software engineers to developing open-source money. She started The Bitcoin Zone, a publication covering the lighter side of bitcoin development.
Runik Mehrotra and Samir Vasavada, both 20, are co-founders of Vise AI, which uses artificial intelligence to create custom stock portfolios for wealth managers. They have more than two dozen wealth manager clients and over $100 million in assets on their platform. In May Vise raised a $14 million funding round led by Sequoia Capital.
Gautam Kunumuru is co-founder of Yogi, a software that compiles the giant barrage of matrices, ratings and comments that developers receive from their customers. It then uses AI and natural language processing to pinpoint commonly encountered feedback that can be addressed by product development. The company raised $2.4 million at the beginning of 2020.
Jai Pradeesh and Sanket Saurav, both 26, founded DeepSource in 2018, a startup that provides software that uses algorithms and machine learning to automate the process. It has raised $2.7 million and is being used by companies like Clack and Intel.
Spandana Nakka and Gaurav Aggrawal co-founded Sleek that sells AI software to restaurants, event venues and other places with long lines to manage wait times. The app lets customers know the wait, impatient folks can jump to pay in front.
Adi Sundar, 29, helped launch Marble in April 2020, a digital insurance wallet for home and auto policies, powered by the industry’s only rewards program. The company already expects a revenue of $500,000.
Vikhyat Chaudhry, 27, co-founded Buzz Solutions that uses artificial intelligence and machine vision systems to inspect critical energy infrastructure with an eye for fault detection, vegetation management and fire prevention.
Aashna Mehra, 27, has been mentioned for being a member of the investment team at New Energy Capital Partners, a private equity fund that invests in small and mid-sized clean energy infrastructure projects and companies.
Surprisingly, there is only one honoree of South Asian origin in this category. Suman Sherwin, 27, Systems Engineer, University of Iowa, is the project manager for a $7.6 million effort to develop a magnetic field instrument for a 2020 satellite mission based at the same university.
Kehkeshan Basu, 20, has been commended for having founded the Green Hope in her home city of Toronto, an all- volunteer, non-profit that has worked with 100,000 young people in 16 countries including India, the UAE and Liberia. A third year student at the University of Toronto, she is also a UN Human Rights champion and a National Geographic Young Explorer.
Tess Michaels, 27, the daughter of Indian immigrants, who grew up in Texas, attended U-Penn and Harvard Business School, launched Stride Funding in 2018, which offers income share agreements, mostly to STEM grads, as a substitute to student loans. The student pays nothing upfront and then pays a share of their post-graduation income. She expects to serve 1,800 students over the next year. So far, 80 percent of her borrowers are women and 75 percent are from among the minorities.
Rohan Shah, co-founded Classavo in 2015, with textbooks licensed from publishers and augmented with videos and additional context for use by professors and students. Students pay $ 20 per semester to use Classavo, and professors can track their engagement with readings while also taking attendance and posting assignments and tests.
Aditya Kaddu, 29, founded Edstrument, a software provider that helps school administrators manage budgets, track spending and save hours of manual financial reporting. The service, launched in 2019, charges an annual licensing fee. Clients include KIPP New Orleans Schools and the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago. With a full-time team of six, he hopes to add features for managing HR and data analysis.
Danish Dhimani, 26, Paritosh Gupta 24, and Asim Sani, 23, co-founded speech-coaching app Orai (for oral AI)in 2017 to help people prepare for and overcome their fears of speaking in public, making presentations and appearing for interviews. The Philadelphia based company has raised $2.3 million so far and 5,000 active monthly users who pay $10 per month.
Sumeet Gajri, 29, has been noted for having founded Original Capital in 2017 and, after raising and investing $17 million, is now closing at $25 million for his new fund that started investing in September 2020.
Vivek Ramaswamy, 29, is Principal at Redpoint Ventures, focusing on growth-stage enterprise, software, infrastructure and finch companies. In his five years at the company, he has led investments in big companies, which have all seen big mark ups since their initial investment.
Monish Sabnani, 27, co-founded Courant, which makes design driven wireless chargers. The New York- based company has been generating revenue since its inception and plans to expand into international markets this year. Courant is already working with brands like West Elm, Bloomingdales and SoHo House.
Pranav Maddi and Sandeep Peddada, both 26, and Prajit Gopal, 27, co-founded Looped, a platform that hosts exclusive live-streams and video chats. Looped has hosted concerts and events with over 1,000 personalities, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meghan Trainor, Jane Fonda, Barbara Streisand etc. Attendees pay for access and Loop takes 15 percent of the top, with the rest going to artists and performers.
Sachin Monga, 29, co-founded Cocoon, a private app for friend groups and families to connect, in 2018. A former Facebook employee, he raised $3.2 million in funding. Recently the app was featured as App of the Day and on The Today Show.
Kulvinder Lotay and Saniya Shah, both 26, co-founded, along with Omer Winrauke, Pilota, a software that uses AI to measure travel risk, like the odds of flight delays. Since launching in 2019, the company had analyzed over 200,000 flights. Covid added more opportunity.
New York based Viveka Hulyankar and Alex Sadhu, both 27, co-founders of Beam Impact, are on a mission to convert consumer behavior into cash for non-profits. Through partnership with companies like Ikea and Sundae School, Beam’s app based rewards program allows users to donate 1 percent of purchases at no extra cost.
Devshi Mehrotra, 23, is co-founder of Justicetext, an audiovisual evidence management software that generates automated transcriptions of body camera footage, interrogation videos, and jail calls. Justice text thus expedites the pre-trial preparation time and allows public defenders to analyze crucial data.
Trisha Prabhu, 20, a current Harvard student, is the creator of ReThinks, a patented technology that detects and stops cyberbullying before it happens. When a user downloads the ReThink app, its ReThink keyboard — a custom built keyboard with the power to detect offensive messages- replaces the mobile device’s default keyboard. ReThink has partnered with groups like Scholastic and the U.S. State Department, is available in six languages and has been featured on TED and Shark Tank.
Avani Gregg, 18, is famous for her blogs and makeup videos on TikTok which have attracted more than 26 million viewers. She has just bagged a role in the Brat TV series, “Chicken Girls.”
Gauri Rangrass, 25, strategy specialist of TikTok, helps creators within the Meme and Food categories grow their followers and brands, including creators Brittany Broski and Tabitha Brown. She is now developing TikTok’s 2020 live streaming strategy.
It is clear that South Asian Americans youth are very much part of the ultra talented and creative youth who are spearheading innovation in all fields and bringing cutting edge technology to use in daily life.
Alpana Varma worked as a Research Assistant at the Delhi University and then as a journalist for over 10 years for several leading Indian national dailies. After leaving India for Europe, she has been working as a teacher, translator and freelance writer and editor. She lived in Mexico briefly where she worked in intercultural communications. Currently she is based in Miami.