When Fortune India launched in October 2010, it was fitting to begin with an article Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in Fortune’s April 1942 issue. Making a case for India’s independence, Nehru prophetically said the future belonged to Asia and the world couldn’t afford to ignore India. He was right. Today, India is the world’s fastest growing major economy—and is poised to grow even further.
Fortune India published its first issue more than 65 years after Nehru’s article and almost 20 years after the country threw open its economic doors. We couldn’t have picked a more fitting time: Economic growth was unprecedented; India’s newly globalised companies were part of many cross-border deals; and they were managing a workforce that was multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural. Our first cover story was about the onerous task of managing such a varied workforce and how companies managing such a global workforce were going to determine the India story abroad. And, just like that, it also set the tone for Fortune India stories: edgy and ahead of the curve with a finger on the pulse of the business world.
As we turn 100, it’s time to look back at our journey so far. We’ve done some groundbreaking stories on the movers and shakers of business from Bharti Airtel chief Sunil Mittal and Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani to ICICI Bank managing director and CEO Chanda Kochhar and former State Bank of India (SBI) chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya. In the first year itself, we had one of the most iconic businessmen of India, Ratan Tata, on the cover. Our story talked of the charm, polish, and pure audacity with which he had reinvented India’s largest conglomerate. We spoke to scores of people, including Tata’s neighbour, former Tata managers, business rivals, Tata himself, some of his key executives, and even a cigarette vendor across the street from Bombay House, to piece together a compelling picture of the man, and what makes him tick.
The same year, we also wrote about Gautam Adani: how he rose from humble beginnings—sold, among other things, diamonds and plastic sheets—built a trading business of some size, and then made the leap to infrastructure. The story encapsulated how Adani combined naked ambition with a sense of what it takes to make things work, and his ability to think big, to emerge as a huge force in business.
A lot has changed over these 100 issues. Technology and the contours of the economic landscape changed completely. India opened its doors to foreign direct investment (FDI) in various sectors, smartphones reached almost 40% of the population, and e-commerce took off in a big way. And Fortune India has tracked these changes each time. For instance, we’ve been on top of the Flipkart story as the homegrown e-commerce firm grew from just an online bookseller to the country’s largest online retailer, and was eventually bought over by Walmart in a $16 billion deal this year. We also took a deep dive into Mukesh Ambani’s big gamble on data with Jio. Ambani told Fortune India in one of his rare conversations on his businesses that his dream is of a digital world where everyone and everything is connected with data.
Another story that often pops up in our edit meetings is about Sun Pharma founder Dilip Shanghvi hiring his own boss. In 2012, we wrote about how and why, in an extraordinary move, Shanghvi brought in Israel Makov, the former president and CEO of Israeli pharma giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, as his board’s executive chairman for a three-year term and re-designated himself as managing director. “I, too, need to learn from someone,” Shanghvi had said about his move.
It isn’t just business titans we have followed but also the journeys of passionate young entrepreneurs, echoing the zeitgeist of the times. In 2014, we wrote about Team Indus, a small company in Bengaluru, tucked away in a nondescript office, where a bunch of 30 young entrepreneurs was trying to do something which to many would sound absolutely audacious—building a cheap lunar lander, which could change space exploration. Somewhere down the road, many in the team felt there were some companies that fell between huge corporations listed on our flagship Fortune India 500 and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that slipped away unnoticed. In 2014, we set out to identify these companies. The result: the Next 500, a ranking of the biggest midsize companies in India, the country’s only such list.
Over the years, our signature lists have brought into focus not only companies, but also the people behind them. We have identified the most promising young entrepreneurs and leaders through our 40 Under 40 list. And thanks to our annual ranking of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, we have discovered fascinating stories about some of the brightest women of India Inc. Former SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya is one example. In 2014, before nonperforming assets (NPAs) became a mainstream talking point after the appointment of Raghuram Rajan as Reserve Bank of India governor, we wrote about Bhattacharya’s relentless battle against NPAs and how that could change banking. Through her tenure, Bhattacharya went about removing the “stodgy PSU” tag from SBI with quiet determination, and made a start to the fight against NPAs.
We have always believed our job is to tell the exciting story of India Inc, to capture the mood of the time, and understand how it affects businesses. We have never felt the need to chase news and “break” stories. Sometimes, however, the news finds us. In 2016, former L&T executive chairman A.M. Naik confirmed the name of his successor in an interview to Fortune India. The legendary Naik ended years of speculation over who would get the top job when he told us that his protégé, 55-year-old civil engineer S.N. Subrahmanyan, would succeed him. To mark the100th issue, we have compiled some of the biggest economic milestones over the past 100 issues and we also have three CEOs talking about their first 100 days in office. As we publish the 100th issue, there’s lots more to come. As Time co-founder Henry Luce wrote in his prospectus for Fortune almost 90 years ago: “Accurately, vividly and concretely to describe Modern business is the greatest journalistic assignment in history.” The endeavour, today, is much the same. Here’s to the next 100.F
( This article was originally published in the September issue of the magazine.)