Niti Bhan is founder and principal of Emerging Futures Lab (EFL), a multidisciplinary research driven innovation strategy practice specializing in the business challenge of informal economies and developing markets.
Founded in November 2007 in response to the unmet need for design planning insights for the nascent African market, EFL has been successfully satisfying the business analysis, consumer insight and concept design needs of private sector, public services and socially beneficial enterprises. Increasingly, our work has informed policy design and programme formulation for rural and urban micro-entrepreneurs, including farmers and traders active in the informal sectors of the developing world.
Clients and collaboration partners 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; Social enterprises providing 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, both directly as well in tandem with leading European design studios providing domain matter expertise.
Niti’s own research has been pushing 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. At Aalto University Design Factory, Finland she developed and put into practice a robust methodology for problem framing and solution development that integrates elements from business development, human centered design and engineering. In 2008, she won a grant from the IDRC supported iBoP Asia project to apply design ethnography methods to understand household finance among low income and rural people in the ASEAN, the foundation for the Prepaid Economy project, and EFL’s body of knowledge based practice.
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 presented 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. As Director, Graduate Recruiting at the prestigious Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, she maintained a GPA of 4.0 in the Master of Design courses on Design Policy, Design Planning, New Product Development, Innovation Planning and Market Forces.
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. She has been on juries for global design awards and led selection teams for international design scholarships and fellowships. Her work has been 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.
She has been 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.
She holds an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, followed by the Heinz Foundation Fellowship at the University’s Technology Transfer Office. She earned a first class in Industrial & Production Engineering from the University of Bangalore, and has completed graduated design education at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and the Institute of Design, IIT, Chicago. Her primary and secondary schooling was completed at the British, and the American schools in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.