Madhav Pai

Director, India, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities


Madhav Pai is the Executive Director of WRI India Ross Center. He spearheads a large urbanization policy research and prototyping support program that informs key areas of India’s urban growth story. For the last two decades, Madhav has led, designed, and implemented urban programs and projects, across continents, in over a dozen countries.

Madhav is a systems thinker and combines his academic training in engineering and transport planning, with his acumen to find systemic solutions to complex and wicked urban problems. India’s urbanization challenges are the key research focus of Madhav’s exploration. He joined WRI India in 2008 and has pioneered several new, innovative methods to overcome barriers to implementation of environmentally and financially sustainable infrastructure.

Madhav has mentored senior researchers at WRI India in building sustainable, low-carbon and resilient prototypes for Indian cities which can be further scaled across the country. He has led several projects around emerging urbanism ideas such as the use of tactical urbanism and public campaigns around pedestrian/social infrastructure, geospatial and other big data analytics to create data-driven conversations and innovation challenges/competitions to address service delivery challenges. Notable successes include project design and implementation of Indore BRT, Mumbai Street Lab, the Raahgiri campaign for democratizing public streets, and solution design for last-mile connectivity, clean tech, etc.

Under his leadership, the team has also informed several policy discussions at the national-, state-, and city-level on road safety, urban transport, transit-oriented development, electric mobility, urban and regional planning, and clean air. Today, WRI India Ross Center engages 100+ professionals in offices across India and supports over 50 Indian cities.

Madhav is a published author and has written several research papers for renowned journals, articles, and books on urban transport, urban planning, resilience, and clean air. He is a civil engineer from Mumbai and holds a master’s in Transport Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.

Madhav lives in Mumbai with his wife Chaya and their daughter Ahilya. He is often seen bicycling with Ahilya on the streets of Mumbai. He is a believer in public transport, loves green open spaces and credits his interest in urban planning to the constant loss of playgrounds to buildings that he witnessed growing up, and his regular commutes on Mumbai’s suburban trains.

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