Emerging Futures Lab (EFL) is an interdisciplinary research driven concept design and innovation consulting team with expertise in the emerging consumer markets of sub Saharan Africa. EFL was founded by Niti Bhan in November 2007 in response to the need for new market exploration and product innovation strategy for the emerging economies of the African continent, and is a registered business in Helsinki, Finland, with research footprint in East Africa (Nairobi) and India (Bangalore).

We have over a decade of experience in bringing a human centered approach to the strategic identification of opportunities for innovation in business models, programmes, and products for the most demanding customers in the most challenging environments of scarcity, adversity, and uncertainty. We bring an intimate understanding of the people, the operating environment, and the commercial aspects of the informal and rural economies in the developing world. Our background in the foremost methods for the research, planning, and development of innovation practices and processes serves us in offering a complete portfolio of services for your requirements.

Our experience includes understanding the reasons that drove the successful adoption of the prepaid airtime business model by the rural informal sector in Philippines, India, Malawi (IDRC); household energy consumption behaviour and marketing strategy for solar products in Rwanda and Kenya; innovation diffusion pathways in the informal trade of consumer electronics and ICT devices in East Africa; market analysis, sizing and valuing informal cyber cafe industry (Village Telco), and the last mile of the sustainable agricultural value chain from farm to fork across the region.

Our services range from private sector innovation consulting (mobile, ICT, business models, renewable energy, finance) informed by primary user research, to concept design of people centered programs, interventions, and policies for government and public services. As we break new ground, we have refined and iterated design methods and “design thinking” to better fit the challenge of the operating environment in the context of the informal sector and the developing world. Read our thoughts on next generation design process here.

We bring a human centered approach to all our deliverables, putting end users (beneficiaries) at the center of our strategies. Contact us to set up a conversation on how we can help you achieve your goals.


Photo: Motorbike taxi service station at the Kenya/Uganda border, taken by Niti Bhan, February 2016