Grameen Foundation AppLab

Researching opportunities for new microfinance products and digital financial services as a Lead Designer with Grameen Foundation's AppLab.

A research participant showing us his mobile devices while describing the ways that he uses them.


Grameen Foundation’s AppLab was a product development incubator that partnered with banks and mobile network operators worldwide. Using in-depth research and on-the-ground testing, AppLab developed mobile phone-based solutions to help the poor break the cycle of poverty.

I spent one year working with AppLab on the following initiatives:

  • Developing internal training materials and toolkits for the Solutions Innovation Process, a holistic approach that combines human-centered design principles with scalable business practices.
  • Leading research with Grameen Koota, an AppLab scaling partner in South India.
  • Prototyping digital financial services with Centenary Bank and Pride Microfinance, AppLab’s scaling partners in Uganda.
A video showing methods from our research process with Grameen Koota and CKS.

Research opportunities for new microfinance products in India

The AppLab partnered with Grameen Koota, a socially-focused microfinance institution, and CKS, a Delhi based innovation consultancy, to uncover new customer insights and conceptualize a new financial product with the potential to reach at least 100,000 poor customers (roughly 25% of Grameen Koota’s client base).

During my time on this program, I organized and led the first round of field research which included 40+ in-depth interviews in three districts in the state of Karnataka. Our research objective was to better understand the financial needs of Grameen Koota’s existing customers and their behaviors around borrowing, investing and day-to-day money management. Additionally, we sought to better understand product and service delivery and operational processes of Grameen Koota's branches and loan officers.

As Project Manager, my responsibilities included:

  • Evaluating potential scaling partners in India.
  • Helping hire key positions for AppLab India.
  • Developing and maintaining project plans and budgets.
  • Working with CKS to organize client workshops, develop research protocols and design research tools.
  • Managing field research and logistics.
Example slides from a research deck.

Prototyping financial services in Uganda

In Uganda, the AppLab partnered with Centenary Bank, a commercial bank focused on extending its reach to serving the country's rural populations, and specifically to Ugandans living on less than $2 per day. While working on this program, I led research to collect customer insights in order to develop new financial products leveraging Centenary’s existing mobile money channel.

Also in Uganda, AppLab collaborated with Pride Microfinance to design, prototype and pilot a new digital savings and credit product called Save for a Target. Save for a Target was intended to appeal to those living on less than $2 per day. The savings account is characterized by a structured yet flexible commitment feature to help clients save lump sums to achieve savings goals. The product also provided access to small amounts of credit in the form of Emergency Loans.

While working on this program, I led multiple rounds of field research and prototype testing and facilitated an experience mapping workshop with Pride Microfinance.

Prototyping SMS messages with microfinance customers in rural Uganda.
Prototyping the market brochure and enrollment form for Save for a Target to text the concept with potential customers.
We created an experience map to facilitate an ideation workshop with the implementing partner.
The experience map included key research insights and opportunity statements that served as prompts to ideate potential solutions along the customer journey.

Leading a two week design sprint focused on increasing uptake and usage of mobile money amongst women in rural Bangladesh, while building capacity in design thinking amongst BRAC staff.

View Project

Karandaaz Pakistan

Building a UX design toolkit to help mobile money providers in Pakistan make their apps more accessible to first-time smartphone users.

View Project

Colorado Education Initiative

Facilitating the SpaceLab Design Network, a group of educators, administrators, students and parents from across the state of Colorado who are working to tackle complex challenges in the education system.

View Project