Ajay Banga© GettyImages

HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Ajay Banga

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Gayatri Rangachari Singh

Why he matters: The Mastercard mastermind took on the top job at the World Bank, armed with decades of experience in finance and consumer products. An ardent environmentalist, feminist advocate and a proud Sardar, he’s a compassionate leader who pioneers innovation while fostering inclusion.

Never has a turban looked so good! The chic Sikh, recently appointed the 14th President of the World Bank, is a rare breed, popular among politicians and business leaders alike. A widely trusted and admired figure, Ajaypal Singh Banga is now vaulted into one of the most high-profile leadership roles in the world.

His stature rose when he helmed Mastercard for 10 years, from 2010 to 2020, followed by a stint as Vice-Chair of General Atlantic, a private equity firm. Passionate about India, the Pune-born second son of a former army officer also headed the US-India Business Council, which promotes trade and corporate relations between the two nations.

A former banker who cut his teeth on consumer products, he steered Mastercard into a global powerhouse, with its stock price appreciating 1,000 percent under his leadership. He also grew Mastercard’s presence into 210 countries!Banga completed his initial education in Shimla and Hyderabad, followed by Delhi University and IIM, Ahmedabad. While at Mastercard, the ardent environmentalist committed to planting 100 million trees and also advocated for gender parity at the company, helping to close the pay gap.

Banga is married to Ritu, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist and fellow IIM graduate. The couple, who have two daughters, is known to have donated US$5 million to Weill-Cornell Medicine, a renowned institute, to research healthcare disparities.

A proud Sardar, Banga has spoken several times about being searched at airports because of his turban, but he bears no malice because they are simply people doing their jobs. It’s that kind of compassionate attitude for which he is widely lauded.

To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!