Rutgers team becomes 1st to win regional Hult Prize Competition

<p>Three University students and one alumna entered their idea for refugee transportation into the prestigious Hult Prize Competition and became the first Rutgers team to win the regional competition.</p>

Three University students and one alumna entered their idea for refugee transportation into the prestigious Hult Prize Competition and became the first Rutgers team to win the regional competition.

A team of three Rutgers Business School students and one alumna have made history when they became the first winning regional champions from Rutgers University in the Hult Prize competition.

The Hult Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit organization encouraging college students to create and present their own unique and innovative business ideas to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. Winners of the entire competition receive $1 million in seed capital to bring their idea to life, according to the Hult Prize website.

“This year's challenge was about refugees around the world. How to create sustainable, and scalable social enterprises that empower the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022,” said Umair Masood, campus director of the Rutgers' Hult Prize Challenge Team and a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

The Rutgers team consisted of Rutgers Business School seniors Najeeha Farooqi, Moneeb Mian and Hasan Usmani and alumna Hanaa Lakhani. The team first won the competition at Rutgers before proceeding to win regionals in Boston. Their prize-winning idea was about operating a system of electric-powered rickshaws in refugee settlements, Masood said.

Entitled Roshni Rides, the team’s idea was to address the problem of transportation in refugee camps around the world, Masood said.

“Roshni Rides is an innovative and eco-friendly solution that provides transportation for refugees across the globe. Roshni Rides will provide a systematic rickshaw service that will transport refugees to various locations within their settlement. All of our rickshaws will be electric powered so that we have a positive carbon footprint and add value wherever we go,” according to their website.

The team plans to first implement their idea in Orangi Town, a large and crowded settlement in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. If their plan is implemented, the team estimates to provide about 560 rides per day for about 13 cents a ride, according to their website.

Each year the Hult Prize Competition receives about 50,000 applicants from students all around the world, meaning the men and women behind the idea for Roshni Rides beat out teams from Harvard, Yale, McGill and other numerous internationally recognized schools, Masood said.

“Rutgers University is becoming a hub for entrepreneurship and social innovation (using entrepreneurship to solve social and community issues locally and internationally) — this validates it,” Masood said.

On Dec. 9, the team presented their idea to a panel of nine judges including several investment bankers, a director from the United Nations Refugee Agency and administration from the Rutgers Business School, before qualifying for the regional competition in Boston, Masood said.

“The judges were responsible for selecting a team — so the idea did not only have to be good, the team members and their professional strength had to be strong as well. The judges were amazed at the presentation and liked the team for their strong speaking skills and how well thought out their idea was. In Boston, they amazed the judges again with their idea,” he said.

The idea was very special for all members of the team since they all share a Pakistani ancestry, Farooqi said in an interview with the Rutgers Business School.

“We’ve worked very hard. This is very personal for us. We are the sons and daughters of immigrants and refugees,” Farooqi said.

The team also often discusses the prospect of making money versus making a real and significant difference in the world, according to the interview.

“This is so, so fulfilling. It has the ability to improve so many lives,” Usmani said.

Masood first started the Hult Prize Challenge at Rutgers in the Fall of 2015. So far 19 teams have been created over the past two years to pitch their own unique business models solving varied social issues, Masood said.

Though the team has already made history by winning Regional Rounds of Competition in Boston, they still have a long way to go before receiving the prize money to implement their idea, Masood said.

“The next step for the team is to finalize their plans for the Hult Prize exclusive eight-week summer accelerator program in Boston where they will build their idea from the ground up, pursue a pilot program in Pakistan and build their final pitch,” he said. “In September, they will present in front of major CEOs and executives of Fortune 500 companies, heads of state, and leaders of world renown foundations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) including Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and (former President) Bill Clinton.”

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