Business & Finance

RU Entrepreneurs Aim to Help Refugees, One Bike at a Time

4b4339fc83a3833e89ea_nur_bikes.JPG
Nur Bikes earned $1,000 courtesy of Johnson and Johnson last week after winning the Hult Prize at Rutgers. Credits: Umair Masood
4b4339fc83a3833e89ea_nur_bikes.JPG

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - When Abu Ezz’s wife went into labor in 2014, the couple couldn’t get to the hospital. They lived in Jordan’s Zaatari Camp, a bustling community of 80,000 Syrian refugees, with few means of reliable transportation. The ambulance that Ezz called never showed, and his newborn son died on the spot.

If he had owned a bicycle, Ezz later said, it might have made all the difference.

That story inspired three Rutgers students and one recent alumna to create Nur Bikes, a for-profit bicycle-sharing program focused on the greater good. Think of it as Citi Bike for cash-strapped refugees, rather than time-crunched New Yorkers.

Sign Up for E-News

Judges unanimously crowned Nur Bikes the winner of the Hult Prize at Rutgers on Friday, earning the business a $1,000 check from Johnson & Johnson. The on-campus Hult contest is part of an international competition designed to spur innovation and social responsibility among student entrepreneurs. This year’s theme is solving the migrant crisis, which has seen millions of people from Muslim-majority countries disperse across the globe in recent years.

“We see the issue of the refugee crisis every single day, whether it’s in our communities or on the news, and we feel that connection,” Gia Farooqi, a Muslim-American co-founder of Nur Bikes and a senior in the business school, told TapInto New Brunswick. “We want to try to fix as many issues as possible.”

More precisely, the budding company wants to fix three major problems facing refugee camps: employment, electricity and transportation. Farooqi and her partners claim their bike-sharing program can overcome those obstacles by creating delivery jobs, using solar panels to generate light and offering cheap rentals.

The business model works like this: People pick up bikes from a Nur Station, pay a $30 deposit, hit the road and tackle their chores, pay 25 cents per hour and then trade the bike for their deposit. The bikes would help them avoid walking long distances beneath the searing desert sun or using what Farooqi called “expensive, inefficient” bus services.

Bike riders will presumably go shopping or even pick up and deliver far-away products during trips, boosting each camp’s economy, Farooqi said. Nur Bikes also aims to strike partnerships with local vendors and aid groups to create a sort of makeshift courier service, she added.

In the short term, Nur Bikes’ riders get an income. In the long term, they’d be working toward actually owning their bicycles, an asset that’s considered a “luxury” among transitory refugees, Farooqi said.

“We want to give them their own independence,” she said.

Plus, each Nur Station would come with solar-powered LED lights, making the bases illuminated hangouts. That’s important because crime is rampant in most refugee camps, in part because they offer little light come nightfall, Farooqi said.

“It’s really unsafe to even walk around the camp once it gets dark,” she said, “especially for women and children, who can’t even go to the restroom without fearing violence.”

The company plans to launch a pilot program in Zaatari Camp, the same place where Ezz lost his newborn son. Nur Bikes likes this location partially due to the money that flows through its 2,500 businesses: $114 million total and $148 per family, per month, by the startup’s calculations.

Farooqi and her teammates want to place four Nur Stations and one central repair shop near key commuter destinations in Zaatari, which sits just near Jordan’s border with Syria. Projections suggest the company will generate thousands of bike trips per day and $115,000 in profits in the first year, following a $65,000 investment.

So the money Nur Bikes won last weekend will go toward pushing their name out there, developing a website, crowdfunding cash and securing seed money to turn their ideas into actions, Farooqi said.

If the team can get its business off the ground quickly, that will be of great help come the springtime regional finals of the Hult Prize, when Nur Bikes will compete against other undergrads and also graduate and doctorate students from the Northeast’s top schools. Umair Masood, director of the Hult Prize at Rutgers, said many contestants already operate profitable businesses—and that’s what the judges like to see.

“It’s all about what Nur Bikes can do in the next couple months,” Masood added. “Their business model is really outside-the-box thinking, and that’s their lucrative advantage.”

In addition to Farooqi, Nur Bikes is headed by Hanaa Lakhani, Moneeb Mian and Hasan Usmani, who all studied supply-chain management at Rutgers.

Win or lose the grand Hult Prize of $1 million, the company intends to make the pilot program a reality, Farooqi said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - February 23, 2018




The Jaffe Briefing Is going on Winter Break, returning Monday, March 5


OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

 NEWARK - The Archdiocese of Newark is somehow making national news, after Cardinal Joseph Tobin sent out a tweet Wednesday that raised one or two eyebrows. Tobin tweeted "Nighty-night, baby. I love you," Hmm, people asked. Now who ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 22, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - If New Jersey raises the sales tax back to 7 percent, will anyone notice? That's the big question from New Jersey Policy Perspective, which questions last year's gimmick that cut the sales tax rate to 6.625 percent. NJ 101.5reports that tax cut equates to $2 a week in "savings" for middle-class families. Meanwhile, this ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 21, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

ON THE HIGHWAY - Authorities were frantically looking into a "mystery tar" that appeared suddenly on cars driving along I-295 in South Jersey, causing tires to gel with the road. They quickly realized that a stretch of the highway in Salem County was smeared with liquid asphalt, leaked from a tanker and causing dozens of cars to get ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 20, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

STATEWIDE - Jittery parents are sending their jittery kids to jittery schools this morning, as classes resume after a President's Day weekend filled with wall-to-wall news coverage about gun safety. School districts statewide have been reporting threats - all thankfully not credible - as district leaders are on the highest alert. East Brunswick, for ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 16, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

E STREET - While a tired nation is demanding gun control (yet again), Springsteen guitarist Stevie Van Zandt is having none of it. No stranger to political opinions, the New Jersey icon tweeted "What happened to us? We are averaging 2 school shootings per week AND WE DO NOTHING ABOUT IT!" Many tone-deaf politicians on Capitol Hill ...

The Jaffe Briefing - January 15, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - As state lawmakers are set to announce a bill at 11 a.m. to decriminalize pot - an issue that has consumed the Statehouse -  the Record is reporting on an often-ignored issue: the state's ridiculously antiquated liquor laws. For example, supermarkets in the state can only have up to two liquor licenses, stemming ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_f91ed86077ea29dfd56e_image

Sat, February 24

Plainsboro

Project Feeder Watch

Green Home & Garden

Carousel_image_f4e82d3711fc465ac05c_1234663_10152274039849715_16207768_n

Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

New Jersey Audubon's Plainsboro Preserve, Plainsboro

Family Adventures - Early Spring: Emerging ...

Green

Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

Edison High School Auditorium, Edison

Free community viewing of "Bag It"

Green

Trees Have Sex? Rutgers Researchers Have All the Answers

February 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A few years ago, Rutgers researcher Jennifer Blake-Mahmud was working on a botany project in Virginia when colleagues pointed out a striped maple, a common tree in the understory of mountain forests from Nova Scotia to Georgia. 

 

“They told me, ‘We think it switches sex from year to year, but we don’t know why,’ and I said, ...

Rutgers Union Rally Planned Friday for $15 Minimum Wage

New Brunswick, NJ - On Friday, February 23, student groups, a coalition of Rutgers unions, and representatives from campuses across the nation will hold a rally and march on College Avenue to demand a $15 minimum wage.

The action, initiated by the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Rutgers American Association of University Professors - American Federation of ...

RU Students Rejoice: Starbucks Reopens at The Yard@College Avenue

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - In what many consider to be the biggest news of the day on the Rutgers University campus, the Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue has once again reopened.

Officials with the New Brunswick Development Corp. reported this morning that the popular coffeehouse is open "for good."

The Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue, located at the corner of College ...

Valeski: Placing Police Officers in Schools was Planned for Two Years

February 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In the midst of a media firestorm Tuesday, Dr. Victor Valeski, East Brunswick Superintendent of Schools, fielded questions from local and national journalists regarding the placement of armed police officers inside each of the district's K-12 buildings.  The move seemed to many as a "knee-jerk" reaction to the fear generated by the massacre of ...

Shouts of Racial Slurs Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

February 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...

OPINION

Letter to the Editor: Low-Income Families Who Need Safe Cribs Have Nowhere to Go

February 15, 2018

One recent email came from a pastor in East Orange, sharing the struggles of a young couple who have no safe place for their baby to sleep.

Then, there was also a phone call from a Newark hospital, making its fourth request in two years, as well as a frantic text from Puerto Rico, for a family who lost everything in the hurricane.

They all pleaded for the same thing: A safe crib for a ...

Somerset Patriots Sign Frontier League All-Star RHP Randy McCurry

February 17, 2018

The Somerset Patriots have announced the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Randy McCurry for the 2018 season.

“I’m excited to play in the Atlantic League this year,” said McCurry. “It’ll be a transition for me but I am ready to face some really good competition and help the team win.”

McCurry enters his first season with the Somerset Patriots and ...