Wipro chief Azim Premji and Bangladesh's micro-credit leader and Nobel Prize winner Mohammad Yunus are among the all time top 30 entrepreneurs identified by leading business magazine BusinessWeek.
The modern heroes find themselves in the illustrious company of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, John D Rockefeller, Thomas Edison and Michael Dell.
The 30 selected include a Ming dynasty explorer Zheng, who lived 15th century to fast food titans to contemporary computer whizzes.
Among them are Mayer Amschel Rothschild, John Jacob Astor, Milton Hershey, W K Kellogg, Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart Ray Kroc, Madam C J Walker, Estie Lauder, Ernest Gallo, Thomas Watson Sr, Thomas Watson Jr, Sam Walton Earl Graves Andy Grove, Ralph Lauren, Martha Stewart, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos and and Pierre Omidyar.
The write up about Premji speaks of his business acumen which enabled him to turn the struggling business he inherited from his father at the age of 21 into a leading IT company in India and growing player in the global market.
"He put a premium on quality and standards to build a reputation for Wipro that would reassure western companies hesitant to move services overseas, a move that helped him land clients like General Electric. Premji is also a hands-on manager involved in day-to-day operations, even making sales calls himself," it says.
What Premji built, the magazine notes, became a leading IT company as the industry was growing and he expanded into the global market by adhering to rigorous standards.
BusinessWeek says it 'picked the brains' of professors, authors and its own staffers to compile the list.
The criterion was simple: if they had the vision to create new markets or tap into underserved markets, changing the way people lived in the process, they were candidates for the honour. But still it agreed that the list is subjective.
Some founders won recognition not just for their companies' success, but for what they did with the wealth they accumulated. Jeff Cornwall, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Belmont University, entrepreneurs-turned-
philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates made the top of this list.
Many of the pioneers chosen also created businesses that in turn encouraged others to start their own enterprises.
Micro-credits from Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank have helped thousands of poor Bangladeshi women lift themselves from destitution and that brought him in the list. Similar is the case with Pierre Omidyar's eBay.
"He wants to encourage free enterprise around the world."
Above all, the entrepreneurs chosen transformed their times.
Admiral Zheng created a vast trade empire for China during the Ming Dynasty. Henry Ford brought the car to the masses. And Gates, Steve Jobs and Andy Grove ushered in the information age.
"All three of them played key roles in putting computers on everybody's desks and now in everybody's pockets," says
Richard Tedlow, a Harvard Business School professor and Grove biographer.
"That's why you have one on your desk right this minute."