Affordable Transportation Network Wins $1 Million Open Innovation Prize

Published Nov-26-18

A revolutionary way to help refugees connect with important services such as schools, hospitals and markets.

The Hult Prize, United States

The Story:

Affordable Transportation Network Wins $1 Million Open Innovation Prize Every year for eight years thousands of students around the world have participated in the Hult Prize, an open innovation competition that seeks innovative solutions to such tough social issues as water access, energy and food security. It lays claim to being the biggest start-up accelerator in the world and awards millions of dollars to winners, including a grand prize of $1 million.

This prestigious open innovation contest inspires and encourages young people to change the world through business, empowering them to make money while at the same time improving lives for others. "The Hult Prize is how the world has to work in the 21st century," said President Bill Clinton.

The focus of the 2017 edition of the competition was to help refugees, creating services and business models that will support them and restore their rights and dignity.

“Rather than look at the challenges that they face we look at the opportunities that come about from one of the world's largest migrations that’s ever taken place and putting the Hult Prize entrepreneurs directly in line and in trajectory to have impact where the world needs us most,” commented Ahmad Ashkar, CEO and Founder, Hult Prize Foundation.

Regional competitions were held in more than 500 campuses and over 50,000 student entrepreneurs took part. From this pool, six finalists were selected to make their final bids at the United Nations headquarters in New York City during the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.

$1 Million Prize Winner

The winner was a start-up called Roshni Rides, a private shuttle service dedicated to ferrying urbanized refugees from their homes to schools, work, hospitals and markets. At the time of the competition, it had a presence in Orangi Town, a slum of more than two million people outside Karachi, Pakistan. It is home to refugees from around Asia.

Refugees face significant transport problems. Even auto rickshaws are out of reach because they rarely venture outside of main cities and even if they do they charge very high prices. But they do so because they too are in economic hardship and need the money to survive. There are so many rickshaw drivers in Karachi that it is difficult for them to make a decent living.

The team behind Roshni Rides studied the situation and noted that many drivers are not earning enough money while at the same time millions of people in settlements outside the city need transport but can’t get any. Their solution was to develop a system that employed existing rickshaw drivers, using their taxis to create ride-sharing service.

It is a solution where everyone benefits all round. Drivers are given set routes that encompass designated points of interest such as markets, schools and hospitals and they charge passengers around half the price of a typical rickshaw ride. But with a rickshaw’s three seats filled up the driver can earn more than they would as an independent operator.


Roshni Rides hopes to use their prize money to grow their company. Their aim is to have a fleet of more than 1,000 rickshaws serving 2.2 million people by the year 2022.

Share on      
Next Story »

What Can we Solve for You?