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Carlo Ratti and Amitabh Kant at India Today Conclave on Building Smart Cities

9th March, 2018,Mumbai: Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant spoke to architect, engineer, innovator, educationist and activist Carlo Ratti, the man who he also hailed as a “futurist”, as to how does India go about building a smart city. “I hate the word smart cities,” said Ratti. “The term just focuses on technology.” Instead Ratti prefers “senseable city” one that is able to sense of what the citizens need.

Director of MIT Senseable City Lab, Ratti is currently developing a digital retreat in the Himalayas in an area on the border of Sikkim and West Bengal. Talking about the project, he said it stems from his need to have a “different approach to do tourism”, adding that the current model is not sustainable for it doesn’t see tourists connect with local population and the city. “Can you design a place where you keep on working?... Be in nature and do the things we usually do.”

Recognised as one of the 50 Smartest People in the World, Ratti emphasized the role of technology and data accumulated in developing cities but also reiterated the need to preserve heritage and consider nature and community while doing so. We are AI [artificial intelligence] to map trees, and to give citizens a better understanding of their city and mayors to improve them.”


The 21st century will be shaped by autonomous driving.

I don’t think there is a smart city. Singapore is doing experiments with mobility; Boston with citizen participation through a programme called New Urban Mechanics where in people engage and help fix the city’s problems and Copenhagen with sustainability.

An ideal city will have the topography of Prague, the weather of Miami, the buzz of Mumbai and the nightlife of Rio.


Self-driving system can bring a rampant change in mobility. It can make travelling more efficient. Much less parking space will be needed.

In trying to change the urban fabric, don’t destroy the community. Instead preserve and upgrade it and empower it said Ratti while talking about how to deal with Mumbai’s sizeable population living in slums.

While developing new cities it is important that architects and engineers find ways to bring nature into the city.

Solar energy is the future. Ratti believes that civilisation can survive if we make a more wholesome effort to turn to it.

Density is an integral factor for cities exist to bring us together.


Started as part of India Today’s 25th anniversary, INDIA TODAY CONCLAVE was designed as a meeting point for the best minds from India and around the world to map the geopolitical and economic future
of the country. In its inaugural year the theme was India Tomorrow 2002: Opportunities and Threats with Vice President of the USA Al Gore as the chief Guest. In its second year the theme was India Tomorrow 2003: Global Giant or Pygmy? The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States presided as the keynote speaker. The past 14 conclaves have been widely acclaimed and popular for the quality of speakers and discussion. The speakers who have been part of this conference each year are current and former heads of state, Nobel Laureates, spiritual leaders, industry captains, social workers, economists, authors, academics, scientist, strategists, activists, cine directors, actors and sportspersons.   

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