Democratising app-building, fighting for free speech, or keeping the web safe, it seems there’s not much that India’s Gen Z-ers can’t do. Most importantly, they aren’t held back by the fear of failure. Meet them in our gallery:


Ankit Shah

25, founder, Tea With Strangers

Dare factor: Challenging millennials to mingle offline

“Listen more” is the best piece of advice Ankit Shah ever received. Take his Silicon Valley-based startup Tea with Strangers, an Airbnb-like community that connects and celebrates the joy of conversation over a friendly cup of tea, as proof. “Towards the end of college I grew far less tuned into my studies and more tuned into the perspectives and backgrounds of those around me,” explains Shah. So, he launched an initiative called Tea with Ankit, which brought together “over 250 strangers for what turned out to be amazing conversations.” From there, he kept scaling it up, until Tea with Strangers, in its current avatar, was born. And what does he love most about the project? “Connecting people who regularly surprise each other.”
The tea you stockpile at home?


Image: Ashley Batz

Akanksha Deo Sharma

25, Designer

Dare factor: Becoming the youngest member of Ikea’s design team

A year into her commerce degree at Delhi University, Akanksha Deo Sharma decided to take the entrance exam for NIFT. “I was fascinated with how design is a part of everybody’s lives,” she says. This eventually led her from Delhi’s organised chaos to a sleepy village in Sweden, where she served as the only Indian on Ikea’s design team. “Ikea was doing an India-inspired collection in collaboration with designer Martin Bergström and NIFT Delhi,” she says. “I applied to be a part of the project and ended up working on a number of projects at the Ikea headquarters in Älmhult.”
Design favorite?
“Zaha Hadid’s liberated architectural geometry.”

Image: Ankita Chandra

Aditi Ashok

18, Golfer

Dare factor: Setting new standards for golf in India

At just 18, Aditi Ashok is already making history. She’s the first Indian woman golfer to qualify for the Olympics, and the first Indian to win a Ladies European Tour title (which she clinched at the Hero Women’s Indian Open in Gurgaon last year). “I started playing golf at the age of five and a half, and ever since I’ve wanted to be a professional golfer,” she says. Realising childhood dreams isn’t the only driving force behind her burgeoning career. “I get to travel to different parts of the world, meet new people and experience different cultures,” she says.
Your superpower?

“Staying calm”

Rupi Kaur

24, Author and poet

Dare factor: Tackling vulnerabilities with a strong voice

Heartbreak, sexual assault, the immigrant experience—nothing is off topic for Canada-born poet Rupi Kaur. “I began to write poetry because it gave me a voice I felt I didn’t have growing up,” she explains. “It was my way of articulating the experiences I was going through.” Her words resonate with young women around the world, earning her Instagram account, where she regularly posts her poetry, over 8,00,000 followers, and her first book, Milk and Honey, a spot on global bestseller lists. “As South Asian women, we have a deep history of our womanhood being challenged, crumbled and silenced. These generational stories move me to document them through poetry.”
An app you can’t live without?

“Google Maps”

Image: Baljit Singh

Bisman Deu

19, Student; inventor, Green Wood

Dare factor: Creating feasible solutions for real- life problems

“When I was younger, I was always that curious, annoying kid who asked too many questions,” says Bisman Deu. It’s this interest in the ‘why’ of things that led her to create a synthetic building material out of rice waste, coined ‘Green Wood’. Her invention was in response to seeing farmers burn their rice fields every year in Punjab. “Instead of just accepting the fact that there is a problem—pollution due to the burning of rice waste—I decided to do something about it,” she explains. “I started researching the properties of rice husk and found it had a high silica content, was waterproof and termite-resistant. That’s when I had a Eureka moment.” Currently studying economics, politics and international studies at University of Warwick in the UK, Deu, whose innovation has received interest from commercial companies in India and as far as Ecuador, plans to file for a patent for Green Wood. She will be speaking at the Women Economic Forum in Delhi this May—we’d say that’s a step in the right direction.
Weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled?

“Wrestling moves to try on siblings.”

Image: Adil Hasan

Atita Verghese

23, Skateboarder and founder, Girl Skate India

Dare factor: Empowering young Indian girls, one skateboard at a time

A posse of girls swooping up and down on skateboards at a graffiti-covered park is one of the last things you’d expect to see in India. But Atita Verghese is determined to make it a reality. In 2012, the Bengaluru girl began teaching skateboarding to underprivileged children, and eventually helped build 10 skate parks in India with the assistance of HolyStoked, a skateboarding collective. She’s also founded Girl Skate India, an online community that encourages women to take up skateboarding. “I’m hoping to reach out to girls and get them excited to skate, to get out of their comfort zones, and to see if their passion lies in this realm.”
Your plans for 2017?

“Skating, surfing and jumping off a cliff higher than I did last year.”

Image: Filip Jedraszak

Manjit Thapp

23, Illustrator

Dare factor: Turning her sketchbook into a career

The UK-based illustrator’s blend of melancholic, strong-jawed women and bold graphics is anything but conventional, but so is her career choice. “I was initially going to study literature but then decided to pursue a career that I was passionate about.” That passion has earned her a spot on Dazed’s list of fashion illustrators to follow, projects with Refinery29 and Adobe Photoshop, and over 50,000 followers on Instagram. When not creating prints, T-shirts and phone cases for her online shop, she sketches limited-edition looks from the runways of Ashish, Gucci and Givenchy.
An artist you love to Insta-stalk?

“Gill Button (@buttonfruit)”

Image: Manjit Thapp

Ayesha Aziz

21, Pilot

Dare factor: Becoming one of India’s youngest female pilots

A need to be constantly on the move sparked Ayesha Aziz’s interest in aviation as a young girl, eventually leading to a student pilot license at 16 and a commercial license at 21. “I travelled a lot as a kid… and I realised that I’m not built to stay in one place,” says Aziz. Regular visits from Mumbai, where she lives, to Kashmir to visit family, cemented her love of being up in the air. “Airplanes fascinated me,” she says. “Every takeoff would give me goosebumps. More than my destination, I’d be excited to go and see pilots, and to fly!”
A word you most identify with?

“Eleutheromania. I’m freedom-obsessed in every aspect.”

Image: Proctor & Gamble

Souvid Datta

26, Multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker

Dare factor: Braving conflict areas and war zones as a photojournalist

Solo travel excursions armed with an iPhone set Souvid Datta on the path of visual storytelling. “It’s never been more possible to learn and thrive professionally through your own grit and ingenuity,” he says. That self-made path has led him to the ISIS-fighting Peshmerga barracks in Iraq, the red-light district in Kolkata, and refugee camps across Europe. “I’ve come to terms with living in a world of stark contrasts,” he adds.
Your most unlikely inspiration?

“Japanese anime. Its protagonists are unapologetically curious.”

Image: Souvid Datta

Shivesh Bhatia

20, Food blogger, recipe developer and food stylist

Dare factor: Blending food and social media into one potent mix

A look at Shivesh Bhatia’s Instagram feed is a deep dive into a hyper-photogenic world of cakes, doughnuts and puddings. From burning an entire batch of pre-mix cupcakes when he started out to giving his Insta followers serious #FoodEnvy now, Bhatia has come a long way. “I’m so glad I started early,” he says. “I have so much time to learn, unlearn, experiment and discover new things.” Up next: Pastry school.
Your comfort food?

“Pasta. It can be made in so many ways that I’d never get bored of it.”

Namrata Purohit

23, Pilates and barre instructor; partner, The Pilates Studio

Dare factor: Becoming the world’s youngest Stott Pilates instructor

A severe knee injury from a horse-riding accident would deter any teen athlete, but for Namrata Purohit it became the reason to keep going. Determined to get herself back in action, the national-level squash player, then 15, decided to give Pilates a shot. “After trying many different forms of fitness, I tried Pilates and fell in love with it,” she says. “I love that it takes care of every aspect of fitness.” A desire to share it with others led her to open The Pilates & Altitude Training Studio in Mumbai with her father at age 16, and becoming the world’s youngest instructor of Stott Pilates—a variation on the form that focuses on the natural curvature of the spine—at just 21.
Your no-fail workout song?

‘Eye of the Tiger”

Mohini Dey

20, Bass player

Dare factor: Building a rep as one of the country’s best guitarists

At just 20, Mohini Dey has already got a decade’s worth of musical work behind her. She’s played with Ustad Zakir Hussain, shared the stage with AR Rahman, recorded with Steve Vai, and is working with legendary producer Quincy Jones next. With musically inclined parents (her mother is a singer and father a bassist), it’s no wonder she was drawn to music from an early age. “My dad noticed my interest in music and guitars, and started giving me lessons; he also took me to his studio recordings and gigs.” Now she can’t imagine herself doing anything else. “I don’t look at it as work—it’s my first love and true passion.”
Your earliest music memory?

“Learning the C major scale at age three.”

Image: Taras Taraporvala

Shreya Singhal

25, Lawyer

Dare factor: Fighting the Indian Constitution as a law student

It wasn’t so long ago that something you posted on social media could land you in jail. Thanks to Shreya Singhal, it’s a thing of the past. When two girls were arrested in 2012 for violating section 66A of the IT Act—which bars free speech on the internet—Singhal, then a law student, was the first to file a petition against the archaic law. “It was a threat to our democracy,” she explains. Though law was never her goal before, she is glad to have joined her family profession. “I love the rush of going to court and making my case,” she says.
Guilty pleasure:

“Eating gummy bears in bed.”

Image: Ankita Chandra

Param Jaggi

22, CEO, Hatch Technologies

Dare factor: Turning innovation into a career in his teens

Meet the desi Tony Stark. At just 17, Texas student Param Jaggi invented a device that won him an award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Dubbed the Algae Mobile, it could be inserted into a car’s exhaust pipe to convert its CO 2 into oxygen. “I started formally ‘inventing’ when I was 12,” says Jaggi, who is now the CEO of Hatch Technologies, which allows users to build mobile apps without coding. “Hatch’s goal is to democratise software for the masses, and empower young entrepreneurs.”
Most unlikely source of inspiration?

“Street vendors—the purest form of entrepreneurs.”

Image: Vanderbuilt University

Shreya Dalmia

23, creative director and editor, Curry magazine

Dare factor: Launching an indie magazine without any publishing experience

Tales from India’s LGBT community, modern illustrations of Kali, and an interview with Sabyasachi Mukherjee are just some of the stories in the debut issue of Curry, Dalmia’s magazine, which acts as a bridge between India and London (where she lives). She may not have editorial experience—Curry morphed from a college project into an actual product—but she’s clear about her vision. “With the political climate, Brexit and Trump [threatening to] deport immigrants, this crossover product was important,” she says. Favourite indie magazine?
“Toilet paper and Rookie.”

Image: Shruti Dalmia

Saket Modi

26, Ethical hacker; CEO, co-founder, Lucideus

Dare factor: Becoming a world expert on cyber security

“Who doesn’t want to hack? Be it your boyfriend’s Facebook account or your boss’s email, everyone has a hacker hidden in them,” says cyber security expert Saket Modi. Firmly on the ethical side of hacking, Modi’s built a career advising clients ranging from the Ministry of Defence to Standard Chartered Bank. “The future looks exciting,” he says. “We can do things today that are far beyond any sci-fi movie of the ’90s.” With this evolving technology, though, comes greater risk. So, what’s Modi’s tip to keep yourself cyber-safe? “Assume that everything you do in cyberspace is being remotely watched.”
An app you can’t live without?


Image: Ankita Chandra

Jasleen Powar

24­, Rapper

Dare factor: Fighting the rap world’s patriarchy as a second-generation immigrant

Storyteller, rapper, poet… Call her what you like, but one thing about Jasleen Powar aka Horsepowar’s work is her ability to blend self-deprecation, brown-girl pride and social consciousness into one heady mix. “There’s a lot of segregation in Indian culture, far too much classism, racism and sexism,” she says. “These issues need to be addressed. If I’m not doing it, I’m wasting this platform.” Inspired by artists such as Nelly Furtado, Das Racist and Tupac, Powar is driven by the constant need to prove herself in the male-dominated world of hip-hop.
Worst piece of advice received?

“Speak with an OTT Indian accent because ‘ethnic’ is in.”

Image: Dana Zamzul

Sirhaan Seth

18, CEO, SMS Contraceptive

Dare factor: Taking sex out of the box

“I’m largely una­ffected by notions and taboos” is precisely the sort of thing you’d hope the founder of a contraceptive delivery service would say. “I once saw a friend struggle to ask for condoms at a chemist,” explains Sirhaan Seth. “Every aspect of my business mitigates that awkwardness—from ordering via Snapchat to the logo-less delivery boys.” The Ashoka Fellow is proud of what his company stands for. “It’s not just about sex, it’s about safe sex. And to build a business around that, as a teenager, is a responsible thing to do.”
Favourite emoji?
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