The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Nikhilesh Sinha

Nationality: Indian

Year of entry: 2012


Nikhilesh Sinha is currently a PhD Researcher at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit at UCL. His doctoral research explores the dynamics of rental sub-markets in low-income settlements in Hyderabad, India. He was trained in Economics at the Universities of Pune and Hyderabad in India and was an Erasmus Mundus Scholar of Law & Economics at the Universities of Hamburg (Germany) and Bologna (Italy).

Nikhilesh led research related to affordable housing and urbanization at the Centre for Emerging Markets Solutions (CEMS) between 2010 and 2012. CEMS is a research hub and think-tank based out of the Indian School of Business focused on designing and evaluating market-based strategies to address challenges and opportunities in emerging markets. His prior research experience includes the design and implementation of a 72-household study on chronic indebtedness across three districts in rural Andhra Pradesh. The study was funded by APMAS, a national-level technical and managerial support institution that works for the empowerment of women in India.

His interests stretch to several domains outside research and academia. Nikhilesh worked for two years as a television journalist and producer at ET Now, a national financial news network in India. Theatre has been a life-long passion - he co-founded Theatreworks in 2002, and has performed in, directed and produced several amateur productions in Mumbai, Hyderabad and London. He has also hosted radio programmes for All India Radio.

Research information

Title: An Institutional Analysis of Rental Housing Transactions in Low Income Settlements in New and Old Hyderabad

Keywords: Housing, Rental Markets, Institutions, Transactions, Hyderabad, Intra-city Comparison, Informal Settlements.

Abstract: The aim of this research is to deepen our understanding of the ways in which poor tenants and landlords find each other and transact in cities of the third world, through a study of two low-income settlements in Hyderabad, India. The project will throw light upon the formal and informal institutions and networks that shape transactions between landlords and tenants. The crucial role that rental housing plays in the shelter strategy of the poor in third world cities has largely been neglected by policy makers and scholars alike, although there has been some attempt to address these gaps in the last few decades. Amongst the most significant gaps in our knowledge, concern the ways in which landlords and tenants find each other, the kinds of agreements or contracts that they form and what holds these agreements in place. These questions are particularly interesting in the context of Indian cities where a majority of tenants (84%) do not have a written contract.

India’s cities are growing at a tremendous rate (at a decadal growth rate of 32%), fuelled in part by rural-urban migration exacerbated by the decline of rural livelihoods, and the question of shelter for the urban poor is one that looms large. The government’s response has been ineffective, to say the least, and some of this failure can be attributed to the focus on promoting home-ownership at the expense of rental tenure. The project gains significance in light of the seeming willingness of policy makers to consider rental-housing alternatives for the first time, as evidenced by the recently launched Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) Guidelines. This research represents an opportunity to explore existing forms of rental arrangements, and ways in which low-income rental ‘markets’ function at a time when the policy discourse has acknowledged the relevance of rental tenure, and when policy makers may be open to considering its implications.

Primary Supervisor: Caren Levy

Secondary Supervisor: Colin Marx

Funders: Sir Ratan Tata & Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust; Urban Knowledge Network Asia Fellow 2013-14 

Publications and other work

Sinha,N. & S.Dastur, 'Private low-cost housing and the peri-urban frontier: the economics of building outside Indian cities', paper presented at 52nd Annual Congress of European Regional Science Association International, Bratislava, 21-25th August 2012 (Shortlisted for the Espainos Young Scientists Award).

Sinha, N., TM. Bhargavi et al, 'New frontiers in affordable housing: notes from the field' CEMS-ISB Report, July 2012.

Sinha, N., D. Monani et al, 'Manufacturing housing: creating rental housing for industrial labour' CEMS-ISB, Report, January 2012.

Sinha, N. 'An informal approach to credit: an analysis of policy and credit markets in Estonia, Slovakia and Poland from an efficiency perspective' Thesis submitted for Degree of European Masters in Law and Economics, August 2005.