Four American students of Pakistani origin from Rutgers University, New Jersey, won the prestigious Hult Award Sunday, earning $ 1 million in start-up capital for their business named Roshni Rides.
Rutgers University graduates Gia Farooqi, Hanaa Lakhani, Hasan Usmani, and Moneeb Mian received the award from former US president Bill Clinton after winning the world’s largest competition.
The Hult Prize Foundation, a nonprofit organization for social enterprise, focuses on innovative ideas to tackle social challenges in the world, and students from around the world compete for the prestigious award.
After several stages of competition, six finalists including Team Roshni Rides were selected from more than 50,000 applicants from over 100 countries.
Roshni Rides is an e- rickshaw service that aims to provide a transportation solution for refugees living in informal settlements around the world.
The startup uses solar energy to stay profitable and promises to be more affordable and secure than other modes of transportation.
In a post on Facebook page of Roshni Rides, the winning team expressed their gratitude and thanked their friends and family for their support.
“Eleven months of hard work, sacrifices and endless support from our family, friends, advisors and wonderful community led to what was one of the most incredible opportunities we have had the privilege of experiencing,” the group wrote.
All four team members plan to relocate to southern Pakistan, so they can use their award money to bring their business idea to life.
Roshni Rides CEO Gia Farooqi, 22, said the refugee-focused challenge posed a politically poignant issue for her team. There was a lot of news coverage surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis when it was announced last October, she added.
“America is diverse and looks different,” she added. “Anybody can help anybody, no matter what you look like.”
Farooqi said it felt “very unsafe and almost uncomfortable” to be a Muslim in America after President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, which focused heavily on a ban to halt the entry of refugees and other citizens from predominantly Muslim nations into the United States.
“Being Muslim, and feeling very connected to our global Muslim family, it just became something that was so much more than a competition,” she said.
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