#XYNTEOLIFE: Transforming cities and moving towards an inclusive society

26 Jul 2019

On World Population Day, Xynteo’s Nyla Khan (Director, Insights), based in the London office, talks about her ongoing work on low carbon cities and her journey in Xynteo.

A recent UN report estimates that within little more than a decade, there are likely to be around 8.5 billion people on Earth and almost 10 billion people by 2050, compared to 7.7 billion today.

“As the population burden on our planet increases and impacts the quality of life and the liveability of our cities, the move to becoming a low-carbon city has never been more critical,” says Nyla.

She leads the low carbon cities theme within this year’s Leadership Vanguard – a nine-month acceleration and leadership development programme that aims to build future-fit leaders.

“For the low-carbon theme, we have chosen to focus on Bangalore. Before our field trip, a lot of our team’s naiveté was around how quickly we could have an impact, but we soon realised it isn’t so simple because when you talk about scale in India it is like nowhere else. I can’t think of any government that could cope with the same level of population growth as we see in so many Indian cities,” Nyla added.

Nyla has been with Xynteo since 2015 and has been part of many projects, such as the launch of the India2022 and disruptive digital models for energy projects. She developed an interest in sustainability after pursuing her business degree.

“I took a year out of university to work and try and apply the learning from my business degree. It was the best thing I did at that age because it really helped me to connect with my purpose. I quickly pivoted to the environmental and sustainability space, studying for a Masters in Environmental Change & Management at Oxford University.”

Having grown up in UK, born to first-generation Pakistani immigrants, she believes that an early exposure to different kinds of environments and living spaces gave her a deeper connection to her culture.

“It also helped me better understand and appreciate the problems and challenges for that part of the world which a lot of people growing up in European countries often can’t relate to,” she adds.

When we talk about challenges posed by growth and its impact on people, we cannot ignore migration. It is another big issue affecting a huge global population. In 2017, she had led another group within the Leadership Vanguard programme to work on migration. It focused on the issues faced by Syrian refugees and migrants in Turkey, culminating in the launch of a start-up called Embark– a reverse mentoring service that connects young, talented refugees with business leaders to build meaningful connections, spotlight the potential of migrants and explore pathways to their fuller inclusion in host economies.

“My parents were migrants to the UK, and I grew up recognising that I was part of two different cultures. I spend a lot of my personal time developing opportunities to grow Embark,” says Nyla.

“I really believe that being part of the Leadership Vanguard is the most meaningful work I have done in my career so far. It enables me to get much closer to Xynteo’s purpose, the reason I joined the company, and enables me to put that into practice in a way that is creative and exciting, and also develops my own leadership skills. Through this role, I also have the opportunity to get a little closer to impact, meeting impact enterprises and changemakers who are pioneering new ideas to leave a lasting human impact,” she concludes.