Who Made the List?

When Forbes released their annual 30 Under 30 list for 2023, it included a number of young leaders and entrepreneurs from the Indian diaspora. 

One of them was Shree Bose who won the Google Global Science Fair as a 17-year-old, and now studies how cancer cells adapt their metabolism to grow in different environments, and has an asteroid named after her!  Like Shree many of these young leaders were committed to finding creative solutions to real world problems. 

They included trailblazers in the energy sector, Sumreen Rattan and Gurmesh Sidhu of Moment Energy, which recycles and repurposes electric vehicle batteries for off-grid energy generation projects; Nikhil Patel founder of Craniometrix, which is developing an easy-to-use Alzheimer’s test that can be taken on a smartphone; and Vineet Erasala and Peeyush Shrivastava, who co-founded Genetesis, to develop a biomagnetic imaging tool allowing doctors to measure the heart’s magnetic field and diagnose cardiac issues. 

30 Under 30 In Media

Indian Americans from the visual arts and media cohort included New York-based artist Anjali Chandrashekar – one of the first South Asian cartoonists to be published in The New Yorker. She won the “peace art contest” sponsored by the United Nations and her  art on nuclear disarmament is in their permanent collection.  Another New York artist, Tanya Gupta was the first Indian-American Adobe Creative Resident in 2021 and has edited more than 100 portrait editorials. 

Two foodies share the list. Pulkit K. Agrawal founded The 5th Ingredient in 2017 after immigrating to the U.S. from India. The company’s algorithms enable breweries to improve beer quality, save costs and time, and achieve the perfect brew. Samah Dada, founder, DadaEats grew up watching her mother cook Indian dishes every night. This inspired her to elevate her recipes in her own space in food media. Dada’s “Love To Cook It,” is her cookbook of unique recipes inspired by plant based Indian food. Currently, she is filming the third season of her show, “#COOKING,” which airs on NBC’s Peacock.

Young Talent In Every Sector

Talented young founders came from a range of sectors such as Finance, Enterprise and Retail.

 Kesava Kirupa Dinakaran, of Luminai, co-founded a startup which automates companies’ internal workflows, and has secured nearly $20 million in funding. Rushil Srivastava, co-founded Simplify Jobs a platform that enables online searches for jobs and internships Aanandh Chandrasekar, co-founder, PetPair, provides a much needed pet adoption marketplace through overcrowded pet shelters and foster homes for pets. 

The 30 under 30 list ranged in age from 15 to 30, and included immigrants from 46 countries. Together they have raised 5.3 billion dollars in funding and launched startups and were judged on their ability to make a social impact, on inventiveness, and potential of their platforms. 

An Interview With Sonali Mehta

Sonali Mehta from the Bay Area made the list this year. Currently director of digital marketing at Arista Record, Sonali spent seven years at Youtube, where she co-launched the first-ever official South Asian playlist, “ Sub Condiment”. In an exclusive interview with India Currents, Sonali describes how her love for music grew into a career in the music industry.

How does it feel to receive this honor? Were you surprised, excited or both?

I feel incredibly honored to be included on the list, especially alongside the women in the music category who I know and admire. I was, and am still, in complete shock. 

What sparked your interest in the music industry?

I grew up playing piano and singing, and was exposed to music that my parents would play around the house – everything from the Beatles to AR Rahman. I quickly found that music was the thing I was most interested in and passionate about, and I spent my spare time reading music blogs and digging around on iTunes to discover new artists. I performed in plays and musicals in school, went on to study Music and Business at Columbia University in New York, and committed to music as my career.

How did you work towards achieving your goals?

While at Columbia, my interests expanded to include the business of music, and specifically the influence of tech on the music industry. I interned at YouTube while in college, which turned into a full time job upon graduating. I spent close to 7 years on the Artist Development team at YouTube working with a total of 1200 recording artists of all sizes to support their music releases on the platform. To further increase the scope of my knowledge in this industry, I joined a record label last year so I could work across all digital platforms in a more hands-on way. I have also spent a lot of time reading and researching the current and past trends of this industry, and asking questions to subject matter experts.

You are constantly expanding your footprint. How do you get everything done?

I usually don’t! I do find it challenging to balance working a job that has longer than average hours, spending time with my husband, family, friends, and dog, taking care of myself by cooking my own meals and attempting to exercise, and doing the things I care about like baking. Unfortunately I find that I’m often unable to tend to one or more of these areas at any given time, which is okay. I try to remind myself that everything is temporary, and whatever I’m less focused on will take center stage at some point. 

Tell us about your goals?

My current and future goals are to continue learning as much as I can in this ever-evolving field, to support the artists I’m working with, and to uplift South Asian voices. I hope this connects me to even more of the music industry, particularly other South Asians, and gives me the opportunity to work with more developing acts.

What are the happy moments or challenges in your daily work?

The best part of my daily work schedule is when I’m able to contribute in small or big ways to the growth of an artist. Working at a record label allows you to be very directly involved in campaigns for the roster, and I find it rewarding when I’m able to help execute a project that leads to an artist’s success. The most challenging part of my job is the amount of time I spend on a screen. Digital marketing involves a lot of phone usage, which can be taxing. 

Can you recall a moment that you felt was the tipping point in your career?

A pivotal moment in my career so far was when I traveled to India twice in one year to work on a couple projects in partnership with YouTube India. YouTube supported my interest in delving into the Indian music landscape and building out opportunities to support the South Asian diaspora. As part of this, I spent about 6 weeks living in Mumbai in 2019. On a professional level, it was important for me to witness the burgeoning hip hop scene, to begin to understand the key differentiators between the US and Indian music industries, and to brainstorm how we might be able to support Indian acts looking to cross over into the US market. On a personal level, it was transformative to travel to a place that I visited numerous times as a kid, this time on my own as an adult on a business trip. I experienced the country in a completely different way and continue to be very grateful for that experience. 

Who encouraged you?

The first time I mentioned to my parents that I wanted to study and pursue music, they expressed some concerns about the challenges I might face in my career. However, they were ultimately incredibly supportive of my interests, and I do not take that for granted. Despite growing up in a different professional world than me, they go above and beyond to stay up to date on the industry I’m in, to trust my professional goals, and to encourage me to pursue the things I’m passionate about. (And I’m not just saying this because they’ll read this.)

Tell us about the selection process for the Forbes 30 under 30.

I was nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30, and a little while later I was told I had made it past the initial round. At that point, Forbes asked me to provide some more insight on my work, my goals, and my thoughts on various topics for the judges to review. I submitted that information and didn’t hear anything after that. I woke up to the published list a couple months later!

What is on your Spotify list?

All of the excellent acts on Arista’s roster, along with AP Dhillon, Joyce Wrice, Anjali Taneja, SZA, Brockhampton, ZZ, Channel Tres, Hemlocke Springs, Maria Becerra, Raja Kumari, Stormzy, Tesher, Rosalia, Raveena, Sonder, Little Simz, Prabh Deep, Armaan Malik, Lost Stories, Priya Ragu, Sinead Harnett, dhruv, and many others.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two...