Niti Bhan is a global nomad (third culture kid or ATCK or TCK) whose life mission is to bridge the gap of understanding between cultures, contexts, and continents. She brings a multidisciplinary perspective to innovation and design, one that is multicultural and holistic, integrating her life experience on multiple continents and countries.
Her research interests push the boundaries of design and design practice, often combining tools and methods from strategy and business to address the challenges posed by complex societal systems. Since September 2019, Niti is a doctoral student at Aalto University, Finland, under the supervision of Professor Dr Tua Björklund. Her dissertation topic covers the adaptation of design methodology for challenging operating environments, particularly the rapidly digitalizing informal economy of sub Saharan Africa.
She founded Emerging Futures Lab in November 2007, to practice hands on exploratory user research to inspire and inform design and innovation strategies for social impact and sustainable profit in the emerging consumer markets of sub Saharan Africa. Selected projects. Her insights on the value creators in East Africa’s informal trade ecosystem were recently shared at TEDGlobal 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania. Watch her TEDTalk.
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.