Aarti Tandon is a seasoned lawyer, human rights activist, film producer, and smart cities expert who has been developing strategic partnerships at the intersection of entertainment + technology + justice for two decades. She is most well-known for having secured a rare Presidential Commutation at just 33 years old.
She currently serves as the CEO of Smart City Expo USA where she convenes presidents, global mayors, government officials, CEOs, NGOs, and leading innovators on harnessing AI, big data, blockchain, and the $1.6 trillion global smart city marketplace to build smart, equitable, and sustainable 21st century cities.
“Cities cannot be ‘smart’ if we have homelessness, hunger, and poverty or if cities cannot access decent transportation, housing, healthcare, security, broadband, education, energy, clean air and water, or build generational wealth. We must use frontier technologies to prepare cities for tomorrow while addressing urgent issues of today,” says Aarti.
Aarti began her career as an information technology lawyer and then a decade in media and entertainment representing Grammy-nominated artists, filmmakers, magazine publishers, and more. She worked with India’s leading events company, Wizcraft, and oversaw the tours of the world’s most famous Bollywood stars. She has organized high-level delegations for the U.S. State Department in advance of the 2014 World Cup, consulted for Derek Jeter’s The Players’ Tribune, and worked on will.i.am’s sustainable joint venture with Coca-Cola, EKOCYCLE. Aarti facilitated the City of Columbia, SC giving Jay-Z a key to the city, and José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen feeding the most vulnerable in Augusta, GA during the pandemic.
Aarti served as Interim Executive Director of the Blue Sphere Foundation (an ocean conservation NGO) and as a content producer for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2018 Goalkeepers event featuring President Macron and other heads of state. She was selected to participate in the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, served as a Senior Advisor for Black Media Strategic Engagement to the Bloomberg 2020 campaign, as Sponsorship Director of Juneteenth Unityfest, and as an advisor for the World Economic Forum’s inaugural Urban Transformation Summit in Detroit. She most recently served as Head of Strategic Partnerships for will.i.am’s AI platform, fyi.ai.
An early steward of criminal justice reform, Aarti helped successfully petition President George W. Bush to grant, in 2008, the early release of her client who was serving a 14-year federal prison sentence for a first-time non-violent drug offense – it was one of only 11 Commutations granted during President Bush’s eight years in office. Her continued efforts to reduce mass incarceration include having worked with the wrongfully convicted at the Deskovic Foundation and formerly incarcerated women at Project Liberation.
As a feature documentary filmmaker, her credits include: Producer, ”Catching the Sun”, a film on solar energy’s ability to address income inequality featuring Van Jones and executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (Netflix, 2016); Co-Executive Producer, “The Uncondemned”, a film on the historic Akayesu case and first ever conviction of rape as a crime of war supported by Global Citizen with music by Aloe Blacc and Maya Jupiter, and; Co-Producer, “Survivors Guide to Prison”, executive produced by Susan Sarandon, Gina Belafonte, Adrian Grenier, and others committed to criminal justice issues.
Aarti is a graduate of Emory University (B.A., International Studies; Certificat, Sorbonne Université) and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law (J.D.) where she served as Editor-in Chief of the Moot Court Honor Society and received the Jacob Burns Medal of Honor. Aarti is a member of the International Advisory Council of APCO Worldwide, and a member of the third class of the Civil Society Fellowship (a partnership between the Anti-Defamation League and the Aspen Institute) and the Aspen Global Leaders Network. Aarti lives in New York City with her husband, Joseph.