The first thing to ensure when looking at a list involving subjective judgement is to come up with a good judging rubric. For example, if we were trying to rank the best pizza, what factors would we need to consider? Well, for starters, how chewy is the crust? How tangy is the sauce base? What about the cheese? We could go on and on.
For a data scientist to truly be considered crème de la crème, we have one main consideration – has their work in the field of data science driven truly meaningful change, whether in terms of dollar revenue or social impact?
Therefore, to jump right in, here is our list of the top 10 data scientists in India today, in no particular order:
1. Joy Mustafi
The accomplished and ever-smiling Mr. Mustafi won his first patent (out of 20) by quite literally inventing a software that teaches the computer how to think! With that, you can feed in word problems in math, and get answers to the same! He has also contributed in personalizing refractive surgery for eye patients. Mr. Mustafi was the proud recipient of the Research Fellowship award in Computer and Communication Sciences from Indian Statistical Institute.
The Principal Applied Scientist at Microsoft – Artificial Intelligence and Research, Data Science and Machine Learning, Mr. Mustafi has fifteen years of experience in research, industrial and academic world. He is also the Founder and President of MUST Research Club (http://must.co.in/).
2. Rwitwika Bhattacharya
An alum of Harvard Business School, Rwitwika realized that while Indian IT companies were a part of the analytics bandwagon, the government was not using any data to make big policy decisions impacting millions of Indians. And deriving meaning from data was her forte! She started the Swaniti initiative, a non-profit that uses data to provide ‘on-the-ground’ support to Parliamentarians at a constituency level and knowledge insight on how to catalyze key development programs.
3. Kiran R
An alumni of MSRIT and IIM Kozhikode, Kiran has gone on to head marketing and customer analytics at Flipkart, the e-commerce team at Dell, and is now the lead for the data sciences and innovation team at VMWare in Bangalore. He was awarded “Innovator of the Year” by Michael Dell in 2014. He was also amongst the top 10 players worldwide on the Machine Learning crowdsourcing engine Kaggle in 2013 and 2014.
4. Dr. Pulak Ghosh
Dr. Pulak Ghosh is the only academician in the country to feature in Analytics India Magazine’s Top 10 Most Influential Analytics Leaders 2015. He wears multiple hats in the Data Science space. He is part of the Advisory group of Big Data at the UN Global Pulse, a big data initiative by the United Nations. He is a visiting faculty at multiple national and international universities. He is also an advisor of analytics to the State Bank of India.
Dr. Pulak Ghosh is also an Advisor to Manipal Global Academy of Data Science. His main research interests are Big Data, Machine learning, Business analytics, Marketing analytics, Statistics, Banking analytics and the use of big data for social value creation.
5. Ravi Vijayaraghavan
A Silicon Valley veteran, with experience in heading digital marketing and analytics teams at 24  and Mu Sigma, he has worked across the domain from scientific research to IT to marketing. A Big Data specialist (in 2014) Mr. Vijayaraghavan was the recipient of the Henry Ford Technology award – the highest technical recognition at Ford Motor Company. Mr. Vijayaraghavan has been instrumental in shaping Flipkart into the data-driven powerhouse that it is today.
6. Dr. Sunita Sarawagi
From being a Ph.D. researcher at Berkeley to teaching at CMU, Dr. Sunita is smart as a whip. Currently, a professor at IIT-B, Dr. Sunita’s most impressive work includes adapting machine-learning models to new domains with no training data.
7. Praphul Chandra
Currently, the Principal Data Scientist at HP ES Labs, Praphul focuses on the application of machine learning techniques to stream and sensor data. Prior to this, he was the Principal Investigator for the CrowdCloud project at HP Labs, India, which sought to combine crowdsourcing and machine learning for creating scalable solutions for enterprises. His research interests are Game Theory, Mechanism Design, and Complex Networks.
8. DJ Patil
Although not residing in India, no conversation about data science is complete without talking about the Indian-origin Dhanurjay “DJ” Patil. The first Indian to be appointed the Chief Data Scientist of the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy, DJ famously tweeted, saying “Data Science doesn’t care about what you majored in or even if you got a degree. It’s what you do with the data that matters”. To top it all, DJ Patil is credited with having coined the term “Data Science”.
9. Shailesh Kumar
A faculty of Machine Learning at IIIT-Hyderabad and ISB, Shailesh Kumar is also the Chief Data Scientist of an Artificial Intelligence startup that is still in stealth mode. Fascinated by the AI dream of building truly intelligent machines, Mr. Kumar is truly one of the top brains in the industry, holding over 12 patents.
10. Ujjyaini Mitra
Ujjyaini is the Head Analytics, AVP Strategy at Viacom18 Media Private Limited. Formerly at McKinsey, her love for mathematics and numbers has proved instrumental in the success of One Consumer View team, which combines market research and advanced analytics
Who else do you think should be part of this list? Tell us via comments.