Four Indian-origin individuals among those selected as Asia 21 Young Leaders


Indian American Megha Rajagopalan, a 2018 Human Rights Press Awardee and an international correspondent for BuzzFeed News, Suhani Jalota, Founder & CEO, Myna Mahila Foundation, and Nikhil Pahwa, Founder & Editor, MediaNama – both from India, and Rhea Singhal, from Canada, Founder & CEO, Ecoware, are among the 2019 Class of Asia 21 Young Leaders, selected by Asia Society.

The 13th class join an unparalleled network of accomplished individuals under the age of 40 from across the Asia Pacific region, representing the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Made up of 39 visionary leaders from 31 countries, this year’s class includes activists, artists, educators, journalists, scientists, and social entrepreneurs.

Megha Rajagopalan. Photo: Asia Society.

The 2019 class will meet on November 15-17 in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, at the annual Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit. The summit – the first to be held in the United States – will carry the theme “Technology & Humanity: Roadmaps for the Future.” Since the first Asia 21 summit, held in Seoul in 2006, the initiative has connected people from the region and facilitated collaborations in tackling the common challenges of the 21st century, according to a press release.

Suhani Jalota. Photo: Asia Society.

Other awardees include Esra’a Al Shafei, who founded a network of online platforms to represent marginalized communities in Bahrain; Van Ngoc Ta, chief lawyer at a Vietnamese charity that rescues children in crisis and the first-ever recipient of Thomson Reuters Foundation’s “Trust Women Anti-Trafficking Hero Award”; Maryam Al-Subaiey, a women’s rights advocate from Qatar, who develops local talents in the creative industry and recently became the first female jockey to participate in the Emir’s Cup; and Farhad Wajdi, who helped build a school in a refugee camp in Pakistan at the age of 14 and later founded a non-profit organization that challenges gender inequality in Afghanistan.

Rhea Singhal. Photo: Asia Society.

Also in this year’s class are entrepreneurs and innovators such as Bing Chen, Co-Founder and Chairman of Gold House Foundation and one of the original architects of YouTube; Rhea Singhal, from Canada, who introduced a fully compostable alternative to plastic and created the first and largest sustainable packaging company in India; Nat Ware, a Rhodes Scholar dubbed a “father of social impact economics”, who started an organization in Australia that provides affordable consulting services by utilizing university students; and Shahab Shabibi, an Iranian based in the Philippines, who provides financial and management support to new enterprisers and was on Forbes magazine’s recent list of Asia’s most influential entrepreneurs under the age of 30.

Nikhil Pahwa. Photo: Asia Society.

“This group of next-gen leaders are re-imagining and reshaping the relationship between Asia and the world,” said Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran, in a statement. “Asia 21 builds a unique, global network to connect this group of change-makers and channels their innovation, energy and vision into a platform to elevate and amplify these future leaders as they take on some of the toughest and most meaningful challenges in the world today.”

Asia 21 alumni now number roughly 1,000, many of whom will return for the 2019 Summit in November. The agenda will include cutting-edge discussions and events that will showcase the best of the Bay Area: technology, history, education, and food & culture. Highlights will include a fireside chat with the first female Dean of the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley, Tsu-Jae King Liu, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Computer History Museum, entrepreneurship workshops at Draper University, and visits and discussions with innovative leaders and tech companies in Northern California.

Asia 21 alumni include Foreign Policy managing editor Ravi Agrawal; SCB ABACUS CEO Sutapa Amornvivat; One Earth Designs co-founder and CEO Catlin Powers; former captain of the Pakistan national women’s cricket team Sana Mir; Senior Counsel at the Supreme Court of India Menaka Guruswamy; former Deputy Governor of Jakarta Sandiaga Uno; Global Head of ESG at Manulife Asset Management Emily Chew; former Philippines Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Moby Group Chairman Saad Mohseni; Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah; Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Head of Equity Distribution Managing Director Soofian Zuberi; and President of Afghanistan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry Manizha Wafeq.

The members of the 2019 Class are:

Iskander Akylbayev (Kazakhstan), Executive Director, Kazakhstan Council on International Relations

Sharihan Al Mashary (UAE), General Manager, Emaar Hospitality Group

Esra’a Al Shafei (Bahrain), Founder & Director,

Maryam Al-Subaiey (Qatar), Business Development & Creative Director, Shoof Media

Jessica Aung (Myanmar), Myanmar Representative of German Development Finance Institution; Founder, WYNEE

Byambajargal Ayushjav (Mongolia), Founder & CEO, Faro Foundation Mongolia

Bing Chen (United States), Co-Founder & Chairman, Gold House Foundation

Bonnie Chiu (Hong Kong), Founder & CEO, Lensational

Zen Cho (Malaysia), Speculative Fiction Writer

Nighat Dad (Pakistan), Founder & Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation

Vafa Ghazavi (Australia), PhD Candidate, Oxford University

Franz Heng (Cambodia), Managing Director, LHT Capital

Jianlong Hu (China), Founder, The Passage Media

Shiori Ito (Japan), Journalist & Documentary Filmmaker, Hanashi Films

Suhani Jalota (India), Founder & CEO, Myna Mahila Foundation

Aayushi KC (Nepal), Founder & CEO, Khaalisisi Management Pvt. Ltd.

Jason Lin (United States), Executive, International Business Development and Production, Alibaba Pictures

Leesa Lin (Canada), Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School; Founder & Director, Lupine Children’s Foundation

Lesley Ma (Taiwan), Curator, Ink Art, M+

John Mak (Hong Kong), Co-Founder, MM Community

Ermek Mamaev (Kyrgyzstan), Lawyer, Kalikova & Associates

Alex Moazed (United States), Founder & CEO, Applico

Enayat Najafizada (Afghanistan), Senior Policy Advisor, Afghanistan Independent Directorate of Local Governance

Pak Shun Ng (Singapore), Department Head, Republic of Singapore Air Force

Nikora Ngaropo (New Zealand), Founder & Director, NNMD; Young Animators

Mir Nadia Nivin (Bangladesh), Governance and Institutional Reform Specialist, UNDP

Nikhil Pahwa (India), Founder & Editor, MediaNama

Megha Rajagopalan (United States), International Correspondent, BuzzFeed News

Shahab Shabibi (Iran), Founder & CEO, Machine Ventures

Rhea Singhal (Canada), Founder & CEO, Ecoware

May Sripatanaskul (Thailand), CEO, LUKKID

Stephanie Sy (Philippines), Founder, Thinking Machines

Gita Syahrani (Indonesia), Executive Director, Secretariat of Sustainable District Association

Van Ngoc Ta (Vietnam), Chief Lawyer, Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

Karen Tay (Singapore), Smart Nation Director & Regional Vice President (Global Tech Talent), Government of Singapore

Alistair Thornton (United Kingdom), Co-Founder, Young China Watchers

Farhad Wajdi (Afghanistan), Founder & Executive Director, Ebtakar Inspiring Entrepreneurs of Afghanistan

Nat Ware (Australia), Founder & CEO, 180 Degrees Consulting

Savera Weerasinghe (Sri Lanka), Founder & CEO, MSH Packaging Industries; Founder, Ananta Sustainables.



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