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Meet the Unstoppable 21 Under 21

Oct 06, 2023

Our jury has chosen these 21 outstanding youngsters who have excelled in their fields – from science to sports and performing arts to social activism. The #Unstoppable21 will be felicitated in a glittering ceremony at New Delhi on October 16.   

Gukesh, 17 | Tamil Nadu

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He has risen to the top of India’s chess pack and a Candidates berth to challenge the best in the world looks within reach. The Chennai teenager surpassed the legendary Viswanathan Anand as India’s No.1 in the live FIDE rankings. The third-youngest GM ever, Gukesh secured a creditable quarterfinal finish at the World Cup in Baku, though not before becoming the youngest player to reach a rating of 2750+ in the sport. 

Abhijita Gupta, 10 | Uttar Pradesh

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She has penned three books and a fourth is in the works. The Ghaziabad girl has a host of awards and recognitions to her name – Grandmaster of Writing by Asia Book of Records and Global Child Prodigy 2022, to name just a few. While more than 10,000 copies of her books have been sold, Abhijita has her heart set on becoming a doctor. But she says she would like to try her hand at horror writing, too.

Sharanya Mudundi, 16 | Andhra Pradesh

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The girl from Visakhapatnam has been feted nationally and earned international accolades for her singing. Not just that, she's also made a mark in English Olympiads and marathons and knows karate, too. In 2020, she bagged the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar – in art and culture – India’s highest civilian honour for exceptional achievers under 18 years. She received the global child prodigy (GCP) award-2022 for art and culture (vocal Carnatic music).

Lydian Nadhaswaram, 18 | Tamil Nadu

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He started playing the mridangam and the drums at the age of four. By the time he was 10, he had cleared grade 8 in piano from the Trinity School of Music. He won $1 million on the CBS show, ‘The World’s Best’, when he was just 13. At 17, he played Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee at 325 beats per minute. He wishes to contribute to world peace through music.

Aditi Swami, 17 | Maharashtra

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She won a gold medal at the World Archery Championship in Berlin this year, making her the youngest-ever world champion in the sport. She was part of the Indian team that won gold medals in 2022 in Iraq and Sharjah with her first individual medal, a silver, also coming in UAE. She lost the finals to compatriot Pragati 142-144. Since then, she has been part of various Indian teams and has won many medals.

Mehul Borad, 19 | Telangana

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He's a first year student at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. He has created a car that can move on varied terrain and overcome obstacles with hand gestures. Before entering IIT-B, he bagged two gold medals at the International Physics Olympiad and the International Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad.

Hemesh Chadalavada, 16 | Telangana

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This Std 12 student wants to pursue electronics engineering and robotics either from an IIT or abroad. He has already created multiple devices, including the ‘AlphaMonitor’ – a smart wristband to aid the elderly afflicted with dementia. He won the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar in 2021 and plans to launch the ‘AlphaMonitor’ soon after research at IIT Delhi and intellectual property certification.

Haaziq Kazi, 17 | Maharashtra

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He's pursuing higher studies in the US and has already conceptualised a ship that can suck out plastic waste from the oceans. As he works on building a working prototype of the vessel, which he calls ERVIS -- to be powered by solar and renewable energy -- Haaziq has devised a three-tier plan to suck out plastic waste from the seas – segregate it, analyse the collected waste, and prevent ocean pollution.

Kaivalya Vohra, 20 | Karnataka

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He dropped out of Stanford to become the co-founder of the first Indian startup to hit unicorn billing in 2023 (first/only??). His net worth is said to be at Rs 1,000 crore now. His entrepreneurial streak saw him start Kiranakart – an online platform for quick grocery deliveries -- along with friend Aadit Palicha when he was 18. That laid the groundwork for their instant grocery startup Zepto, which took off during the pandemic. 

Avani Prashanth, 16 | Karnataka

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She is the highest-ranked Indian in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and is the first from the country to win the Queen Sirikit Cup. The No.1 Indian women's amateur golfer for two straight years and the highest-ranked Indian in world amateur rankings, she was the first Indian to represent Asia on the Asia Pacific Golf Council Team for the Patsy Hankins Trophy and the youngest member of the Indian contingent at the Huangzhou Asian Games. She is also the first Indian to take part in the Augusta National Women's Amateur meet at the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club.

Parth Salunkhe, 19 | Maharashtra

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He's the first Indian to clinch gold in the recurve category of the 2023 Youth World Championships in men's archery. His achievement was the icing on the cake for the Indian contingent at the world meet as it accumulated an unprecedented tally of 11 medals. His dedication and exceptional skills have not only brought him personal glory but also raised India's standing in the world of archery, setting new standards of excellence for aspiring archers across the nation.

R Praggnanandhaa, 18 | Tamil Nadu

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One of the youngest GMs in chess history, he earned his title in April 2021 aged a little under 13 years. He blazed a remarkable run at the World Cup in Azerbaijan, beating higher-ranked players before ending second-best to the top-ranked Magnus Carlsen in the final, earning a berth in the Candidates meet for finding a challenger to the world chess champion Ding Liren. He contributed in India's bronze medal finish at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad and won the Asian Continental Chess Championship in 2022. In July 2023, he hit a live rating of 2700 for the first time.

Aarrav Anil, 17 | Karnataka

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A Std 12 student with a passion for innovating and creating solutions using robotics, he counts a self-stabilising spoon he created for Parkinson’s patients among his best achievements. He is trained in AI, machine learning, computer-aided design, and 3D printing along with electronics and IoT. He started his journey in robotics when he was 7 and has won more than 20 awards in global robotics competitions, including a gold at the World Robot Olympiad in Germany in 2022. He is working on a startup idea and has mentored students at government schools in building robots, among other things.

Ayaan Deshpande, 9 | Maharashtra

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Not your average young musician but a prodigious concert pianist and composer who has been turning heads and earning accolades since his very first public performance, which came in November last year. He's embarked on a series of concerts at prestigious venues in Vienna, where he won accolades at the Golden Key Music Festival. He will also perform at the World Composers Concert.

Tulasi Hegde, 14 | Karnataka

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This child prodigy from the serene village of Bettakoppa in Uttara Kannada district has already left an indelible mark on the traditional theatre form known as Yakshagana. She was just 3 years old when she became captivated by the elaborate makeup -- a time-consuming process with the attire weighing 14-15 kg -- for Yakshagana. Her mother was her first mentor as she presented her first Yakshagana dance-drama performance aged five and a half years. Tulasi has performed in over 800 one-act plays across the major Indian cities.

Advait Kolarkar, 9 | Maharashtra

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His paintings have sold for as much as $100,000 in Canada and the US. His work showcase a measure of creativity that far exceeds his years of experience. As his art evolves, Advait has drawn praises for effortlessly capturing the essence of the universe and oceans through abstract gestures. Food colours was how he was introduced to art by his mother and now he revels in constantly refining his art. He has held exhibitions in the west and received the Global Child Prodigy Award in 2020

Nihal Raj, 13 | Kerala

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He's already established himself as a renowned figure in the culinary world with his journey beginning at the age of four. In January 2020, he was received the Global Child Prodigy award and a defining moment came when he appeared as a guest on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show', where he showcased his culinary expertise by teaching the host how to prepare Kerala's traditional breakfast, puttu. Earlier, in 2016, Facebook acquired non-exclusive rights to one of his videos where he prepares a 'Mickey Mouse Mango ice cream'. 

Appalla Saikiran, 20 | Telangana

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The founder-CEO of SCOPE, which seeks to revolutionise fundraising for startups. With startups often struggling to connect with investors due to information overload and limited access, SCOPE aims to remove barriers, streamline the matchmaking process and allow founders to focus on their missions. To achieve its goal, it can leverage a vast network of 20,000 angel investors, 3,000 VC firms, and 200+ family offices. SCOPE has facilitated fundraising for 400 ventures, accelerating growth, fostering innovation, and contributing to India's entrepreneurial landscape. 

Namya Joshi, 16 | Punjab

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She's an advocate for #GirlsInSTEM, which seeks to empower girls to break barriers in what was once a male-dominated field. A global teacher with the motto of #EachOneTeachTen, she has so far trained over 15,000 teachers and students worldwide, guiding them in creating game-based classroom lessons. She has also curated a virtual library of more than 500 lessons on her YouTube channel and website. She also actively promotes environmental awareness and won the Pradhan Mantri Rastriya Bal Puraskar in 2021, and the Global Child Prodigy Award in 2022.

Shafali Verma, 19 | Haryana

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Rohtak-born Shafali Verma is the enforcer of women’s cricket. Her batting blends the abandon of Sehwag with the intimidating six-hitting skills of Gayle. A goldsmith’s daughter, she picked up the willow after being impressed by Tendulkar’s batting and started playing with the boys with no girls’ team around. Soon she was smashing them for sixes. Only 19, Verma has also changed gender stereotypes.

Karnav Rastogi, 14 | Maharashtra

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This young author has taken up the issue of climate change in his 11 books – seven in English and the remaining in regional languages. A UNEP Tide Turner Plastic Champion, he was a speaker at UNEP and WWF’s National Youth Summit. He has won many awards like the Sony BBC Young Earth Champion and the Pride of Nation accolades. At present, he is distributing his book ‘Kartik, Mixie & Climate Change: It’s Now or Never across India’ along with seed packets and green pledges.

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