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Rutgers Students Win $1 Million Hult Prize For Ride-Sharing Startup

Roshni Rides Project Brings Accessibility and Dignity to Displaced Refugees
Hult Prize
The founders of Roshni Rides celebrate winning the Hult Prize with former US President Bill Clinton. Roshni Rides

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Roshni Rides, the passion project of four Pakistani-American Rutgers Business School students, won the $1 million Hult Prize in September.

The project is a business which aims to bring accessibility and integrity to displaced refugees, was started by Najeeha Farooqi, Moneeb Mian, Hasan Usmani, and Hanaa Lakhani.

The Hult Prize, according to their website, is a competition to help for-profit startups emerging from universities and to bring attention to the benefits of social entrepreneurship to young entrepreneurs.

The competition's challenge for 2017 was to "find a way to restore human dignity and rights to millions of displaced people by 2022."

Roshni Rides won the prize for their concept of a ride-sharing network that connect refugees to hospitals, schools, and places of employment.

The project's first iteration was as a bike-sharing program in Jordan, which proved to be a challenge for the founders of the business as they had no connections to people in Jordan.

Realizing that a common thread among them all was that they all had parents who had immigrated from Pakistan, the project was re-envisioned for that nation, the largest host country to displaced refugees in South Asia.

Knowing more about the issues that face their parent’s home country, they were able to better understand what was needed when it came to transportation.

After consulting with family members, and people who had volunteered at refugee camps in Pakistan, they realized that a small, but significant way to bring back dignity and accessibility to these displaced refugees would be to start a reasonably priced ride-sharing program.

According to Hanaa Lakhani, one of the founders, Rutgers Business School helped them understand how businesses may be profitable and help the maximum amount of people on a global level.

The group is now re-locating to Pakistan to ensure the success of the project, and they plan on using the $1 million to expand at a faster pace than originally planned.

"All of us are Muslim Pakistani Americans and we wear all these identities proudly, even though in this day and age it is difficult to do so," said Lakhani, who thanked the group's parents and adivsors for the hours of  help they provided.

"Our identities have helped shape who we are and our success wouldn’t be possible [without our community helping] to guide us to create something that would enable us to give back to the country our parents migrated from.”