Five teams pitched their business models to a panel of Columbus-area entrepreneurs at the Grand Finale Pitch Competition at Curl Market in November. The winning team, Humara Kitchen, was led by Ohio State senior Ayna Arora, and has moved onto the regional round of the Hult Prize, which will take place in March.
The Hult Prize is a year-long competition sponsored by the Hult Prize Foundation and the United Nations. Each year, groups develop business models to address a global social issue, and the winning team is awarded $1 million in seed funding to finance their business.
This year’s social issue was youth unemployment. Humara Kitchen’s business model addresses the issue in India through a women-run tiffin delivery service.
Tiffin boxes are meals delivered to offices during the workday. They’re popular in India, Arora said.
“It’s very typical for you to say, ‘I take the metro to my workplace, I also get a tiffin delivered to my office,’” Arora said. “It’s an everyday thing.”
Along with a team spread across the globe, Arora, a fourth-year in food science and technology, founded Humara Kitchen during an eight-day program in Singapore called Unleash. The program enables 1,000 young entrepreneurs to develop business models to address specific global issues.
It was there that Arora, along with her team members, realized they wanted to focus their impact on women who live in slums.
“I grew up in India and one of my other team members did as well, so we were familiar with the women, and we knew that this was a target that was close to our hearts, and we had seen the malnourishment experiences that they had had,” Arora said.
Many of the women living in Indian slums work as domestic help or in seasonal jobs. They’re often underpaid, Arora says, and many of them face unemployment. Humara Kitchen wanted to use the women’s experience with cooking to their advantage and help hone their skills to eventually find steadier, higher-paying jobs.
“This is a great way to put them in a familiar space but also develop some skill,” Arora said, adding that the goal for the company is “that after working one or two years with Humara Kitchen, they can go on to advance and earn more money.”
For the Regional Finals, Arora will choose from 25 different locations to compete around the world. Right now, she’s torn between San Francisco and Boston.
The top few teams from each regional competition will advance to a the 6-Week Accelerator in London Castle, and from there, the top six teams will pitch their business models to the United Nations.
Nathan Zanzig, Campus Director for the Hult Prize at Ohio State, said this is the first year they’ve had a formal Grand Finale Pitch Competition. It’s one of the few programs that gets students out of the “Columbus bubble of resources.”
“Now that Ayna won, she gets to go out and network with people from across the country and pitch her idea,” he said.
The community of people she has met is what Arora said is her biggest takeaway from the competition process.
“You learn a lot from pitching, and it’s an amazing way to get your idea out there and get some feedback, but [it’s also about] seeing what other people are doing and how they approach the same ideas,” she said.