The High and Mighty: India Today Power List 2020
India Today Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie talks about the India Today Power List 2020, The High and Mighty, which chronicles the men and women who have had an outsized impact on our lives, in the October 26, 2020 edition of the India Today Magazine.
- Total Shares
India Today's annual ‘High and Mighty’ list chronicles the men and women who have an outsized impact on our lives. Their clout results from factors that are more than just an outcome of their wealth or the positions they hold. It stems from their ability to wield influence in arenas outside their own.
The 17th edition of the list comes in the middle of a global health crisis and the most significant reshaping of our lives in decades. The Covid-19 pandemic, the ensuing lockdowns and social distancing protocols have altered how we work, treat our health, educate our children, interact with friends, shop for food and provisions and consume entertainment.
India Today October 26, 2020 cover, The High and Mighty.
This year’s list reflects this disruption. We have our perennials, a tiny elite insulated from the vagaries of change who have remained on our list since 2003. We now also have the disruptors, men and women from new sectors, who have seized the opportunity presented by the pandemic, and reflect the current zeitgeist. They are among the 11 new entrants, including three women, featuring on our pages for the first time ever. There are a total of eight women on the list, one more than last year. Some of our new entrants in the health and entertainment sectors mirror our changed lives in a pandemic.
The education baron running what is now the world’s most valuable edtech firm registered one of our largest year-on-year leaps, rising 21 places to number 24. The vaccine billionaire, who ensured India got a head start in the race to find a Covid vaccine, entered the list at 27th place. The shuttering of movie halls this year and the rise of online entertainment platforms are why the heads of two of India’s fastest growing OTT platforms appear on the list.
Among the biggest beneficiaries of the lockdown have been e-commerce platforms, which have recorded massive sales this year. The country head of a global e-commerce behemoth has registered a sharp uptick in our list, moving up from 16th place last year to number 7 this year. Others, like the TV tycoon from Chennai with a growing digital footprint and political clout in the South, are back on our list after several years. The head of a technology giant that also straddles India’s social media space, a leading food delivery aggregator that expanded its services to include groceries and other essentials through the pandemic, the billionaire investor who runs the country’s second-largest hypermarket chain, they all have entered our list too.
Wealth creators continue to dominate our list as they have since 2003. We have 40 entrepreneurs on our list this year, 14 more than last year. Most have seen a drop in their position on account of this year’s unprecedented economic downturn which has seen India’s GDP contracting by a record 23.9 per cent in the April-June quarter. They will undoubtedly be critical to India’s economic recovery, which the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook optimistically projects at 8.8 per cent next year.
Covid-19 has added to the political capital of both the ruling party and the opposition. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ratings remain at an all-time high as he and his party dominate the power list of politicians. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who are offering some semblance of opposition to the government, are the only non-BJP leaders to have broken into this list after a two-year hiatus.
We always take pride in the achievements of Indians abroad, and this year is no different. In addition to the India-born Silicon Valley CEOs and global billionaires, we have an Indian-American in the running to be vice-president of the USA. Persons of Indian origin already hold the UK’s second and fourth most important political office. The CFO of the World Bank, the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and the WHO’s chief scientist are all women of Indian origin. They and all the others on our list hold out extraordinary hope as we navigate these troubled times.
The pandemic, however, has also highlighted the fact that power is ephemeral. Flourishing businesses have seen their fortune wilt, and some may be in terminal decline even as new ones have boomed. The moral of the story is: Never take anything for granted. Be humble.
(India Today Editor-in-Chief's note for the cover story, The High and Mighty, for October 26, 2020 issue of India Today Magazine)