Niti Bhan

Niti Bhan


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    Artistic and research interests

    From September 2019, Niti is pursuing self-funded fulltime doctoral studies at Aalto University, Finland. She is under the supervision of Professor Dr Tua Björklund. Her dissertation topic will cover the adaptation of design methodology for systemically lowering the barriers to adoption of novel technologies (in particular, thinking tools, taking the dictionary definition of "technology") in challenging operating environments, for instance the rapidly digitalizing informal economy of sub Saharan Africa.

    Between April 2020 and March 2021, she completed dissertation related data collection through research projects exploring novel ways to facilitate participatory design research for both non-commercial (Kenya) and for-profit outcomes (Tanzania) across barriers of distance, culture, language, context, etc

    Longer Biography

    Niti Bhan is a global nomad who’s life mission is to bridge the gap of understanding between cultures, contexts, and continents. She brings a multicultural perspective to innovation for the informal economies of the emerging markets of the developing world. She is the founder and principal of Emerging Futures Lab, a multidisciplinary team of human centered researchers, designers, engineers, and economists, who collaborate on design and innovation strategies for social impact and sustainable profit in the emerging consumer markets of sub Saharan Africa. Selected projects.

    Niti’s work pushes the envelope of human centered design and business strategy, adapting the methods and tools from the formal economy to the context and needs of the informal and developing world. Her insights on the value creators in East Africa’s informal trade ecosystem were recently shared at TEDGlobal 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania.

    Her collaboration partners and clients include TradeMark East Africa; The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy of the Government of The Netherlands along with LEI- Wageningen UR; numerous startups and social enterprises providing mobile payments, fintech, solar power, mesh wifi and VoiP technology to rural African populations; Aalto University Design Factory; Helsinki School of Economics, Tekes and the Finnish Forest Cluster; Vodafone, Samsung and Nokia.

    An established speaker, her plenary keynotes include the Human-Computer Interaction (CHI) conference in 2007 in San Jose, California, titled ‘The Mobile as a Post-Industrial Platform for Socio-Economic Development and innovation at the bottom of the pyramid and emerging markets’, and the Global Women’s Congress in Deauville, France in 2010. Most recently, she spoke on the systemic challenges of technology and inequality in Madrid, Spain at BankInter Foundation’s Technology and Inequality Forum.

    Her 25 years of global experience in new and emerging markets includes employers such as Hewlett Packard and McCann Erickson in the post liberalization Indian market of the mid 1990s; and The Second City, the world’s leading “university of improv” during the dotcom boom of the late nineties in the United States.

    In 2007, she was invited to join the Cox Europe Mission on Multidisciplinary Creativity for Higher Education and Business by the UK Design Council, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the UNESCO Social Design Network. Niti’s on juries for global design awards and led selection teams for international design scholarships and fellowships. Her work was part of the curriculum of the UK’s Open University’s program on creativity in the 21st century and she has taught in Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands, India (IIT Kanpur) and the United States.

    Published in print and online by BusinessWeek, Harvard Business Review, the Journal of Chartered Designers UK, Core77, and numerous other locations, she’s ranked among the top 40 design writers online.

    Her MBA in New Markets Strategy is from the University of Pittsburgh, followed by a Heinz Foundation Fellowship to apprentice at the University’s Technology Transfer Office. She earned a first class in Industrial & Production Engineering from the University of Bangalore, and post graduate design education at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. At the Institute of Design, IIT, Chicago, she maintained a 4.0 gpa while working fulltime as Director, Graduate Recruiting. She has 7 O Levels from London University, and a high school diploma from the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL), Malaysia.

    Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
    • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
    • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
    • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


    • Design
    • Mobile Platform
    • User Research
    • Prepaid Mobile Business Model
    • Design Methods
    • Informal Economy


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    • Identifying the User in an Informal Trade Ecosystem

      Bhan, N. & Gajera, R., Jun 2018, Proceedings of DRS 2018 : Catalyst. Storni, C., Leahy, K., McMahon, M., Bohemia, E. & Lloyd, P. (eds.). Design Research Society, Vol. 3. p. 1010-1022 (Proceedings of DRS).

      Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review