May 26, 2019 | 78° F

Rutgers team takes home Hult Prize and $1 million to make their idea a reality

After 11 months of work, 4 U. students have won the funds necessary to start up their refugee transportation business


A team of four current and former Rutgers student were awarded the Hult Prize for a project called Roshni Rides, which would provide accessible and inexpensive transportation for refugees in South Asia.

Four forward-thinking Rutgers students won the $1 million Hult Prize award on Saturday for their idea to restore and improve quality of life for millions of refugees.

The team, comprised of Rutgers Business School senior Najeeha Farooqi and three University alumni — Moneeb Mian, Hasan Usmani and Hanaa Lakhani — worked and planned for 11 months to become the first team from Rutgers to become a finalist in the competition.

According to the website the 2017 Hult Prize challenge was to develop a business capable of restoring the dignity of 1 million refugees by 2022.

Roshni Rides, the name of the winning business, is a transportation network solution that provides accessible, affordable and reliable public transportation for urbanized refugees living in informal settlements in South Asia, according to the Roshni Rides website

According to the website, there are 200 million urbanized refugees in South Asia who do not have reasonable access to resources like markets, schools, hospitals and places of employment due to a lack of public transportation options. This result is limited opportunity and self-sufficiency for refugees.

“At Roshni Rides, we believe that when you take away a refugee’s ability to be self-sufficient, you take away their dignity. Every refugee deserves to travel with dignity. That’s why we’re here to create brighter lives, one ride at a time,” the team said in a statement on their website.

Daria Torres, a strategic management consultant, and Alok Baveja, a professor in the Rutgers Business School, co-advised the team.

"True to their name, these young Rutgers entrepreneurs are bringing the light of new hope and optimism to millions of displaced refugees globally through an accessible, affordable and reliable rickshaw transportation system," Baveja said to Rutgers Today.

Before moving on to the finals in New York City, the team triumphed at the regional competition in Boston.

Following their win in Boston, Farooqi told reporters that this is a very personal issue that the team, as children of Pakistani immigrants and refugees, is passionate about addressing.

The team’s zeal to succeed with their project helped with their journey from regionals to finals. In that time, they ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000, produced a six-week pilot of their transportation business in Pakistan and spent eight weeks participating in a startup accelerator run by Hult.

"We were building a company from scratch,” Farooqi said. "It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and we all learned our potential is limitless."

Stephen Weiss

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