Apala Lahiri Chavan

Chief Oracle and Innovator, Human Factors International


Apala is a world-renowned expert on cross-cultural design, innovation and UX strategy. Her innovative and pioneering techniques have benefited global giants such as HP Labs, Adidas, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, NCR, and Intel, among others. She is also recipient of the International Audi Design Award.

Apala is a dynamic and creative instructor and author. Her keynote talks on contextual innovation, ecosystem research, internationalization, and designing for emerging markets have received acclaim in USA, Canada, Europe, India, and China.

She has developed a vast array of data-gathering techniques such as Bollywood Method, Bizarre Bazaar, and Funky Facilitator to help understand the user experience in diverse cultural and economic environments. She and her team pioneered the “Ecosystem Chart” that organizes vast amounts of ethnographic data into a coherent model.

Apala also specializes in creating UX strategy for organizations that are looking at creating breakthrough user experience for their customers and other stakeholders.

Some of her recent projects include:

  • UX strategy for cross-channel integration of one of the largest banks in South Africa.
  • Ecosystem research and innovation strategy for a large German appliance maker.
  • Research, innovation, and design for the in-home entertainment domain in India, China, and USA.
  • Ecosystem research about cell phones for the Indian market for a large Finnish mobile phone maker.
  • Microcredit system, managing small loans to farmers and small businesses, with operators who could only read numbers, not text, for MIT Media Lab Asia.
  • Researching media applications in rural markets for an American technology company.
  • Applying handwriting recognition for small businesses in India.
  • Unusual applications for ATM machines.
  • Identifying latent needs in emerging markets for a US based home medical-equipment company, used in the therapy process.
  • Innovation and strategy for inclusive banking in Kenya.
  • Innovation and strategy for mobile banking in South Africa.

Apala has been with HFI since 1999 as Managing Director, HFI India, and VP, HFI Asia, Chief Oracle and Innovator before assuming her current role.
In addition to her usability certifications (CUA and CXA), Apala holds an MSc with distinction in User Interface Design from London Guildhall University. She is also a National Talent Scholarship winner in India.


Future of UX in 2050

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