Four Pakistani American students from Rutgers University in New Jersey won the prestigious Hult Prize award at the UN headquarters on Sunday.
The students secured $1 million in startup capital for their business, Roshni Rides, providing a private shuttle service dedicated to ferrying refugees from their homes to schools, work, hospitals and markets.
Former US president Bill Clinton presented the award to winners Gia Farooqi, Hanaa Lakhani, Hasan Usmani, and Moneeb Mian after their victory.
Students from around the world compete for the Hult Prize Foundation award. The foundation focuses on innovative ideas to tackle social challenges in the world.
Rishni Rides uses solar energy to remain cost efficient and promises to be more affordable and safe than other transport options.
Ahmad Ashkar, founder of the Hult Prize said, “[The company] has an immediate impact and addresses one of the greatest needs, which is mobility. If you can’t be mobile, you are a prisoner.”
In a Facebook post following the win, the group said, “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.”
“There are no words to express how happy, excited and blessed we feel right now after being presented the $1M award to restore the dignity of refugees.”
“Four Pakistani Americans. Each one of those identities has shaped who we are as a team in wanting to give back to Pakistan and the greater community,” they added.
Roshni Rides hopes to use the prize money to expand the company over the coming years. By 2022, they aim to have a fleet of 1,200 rickshaws across south Asia and serve 2.2 million refugees.