For recent Rutgers graduate Hasan Usmani, the sight of the vast Karachi slum was a shock, despite his family connections and previous visits to Pakistan.
The 8,000-acre Orangi Town, home to 2.5 million people, many of them refugees from Afghanistan and Bangladesh, is barely livable, the 23-year-old said. Lacking adequate sewer lines, its streets are awash in wastewater when it rains. One resident told Usmani her children shower only once a week so the family can afford food.
“I was surprised to see people living in these conditions and surviving,” Usmani said.
He and three other fellow business school students at Rutgers University in New Brunswick — Hanaa Lakhani, Gia Farooqi, and Moneed Mian — had gone there in May with a project in mind to help the slum residents: solar-powered rickshaws. It was a concept that had won a regional competition earlier. When they got to Pakistan, an even better idea emerged: a ride-share program to better connect impoverished residents of the shantytown to rickshaws, an Uber of sorts.
This month, their pilot program, Roshni Rides, snagged first place and $1 million in start-up capital in the prestigious Hult Prize competition, founded by Swedish businessman Bertil Hult and funded by his family. The award has been dubbed the Nobel prize for students.