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MBAs Compete To Solve Global Food Crisis (And Win $1 Million Dollars!)

The annual Hult Challenge brings us some of the brightest ideas for solving the global food crisis, from vending machines in Chinese slums to getting more fresh food to markets!

By  

Mon Mar 18 2013

BusinessBecause
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fmsc
 
The world produces enough food to feed everyone, however more than one third of the food generated for human consumption is lost or wasted.
 
Hunger is one of the world’s most solvable challenges and the Hult Prize challenges business school students to come up with a solution. 
 
With prize money of of US$1 million to launch a new social enterprise, students were asked to determine the best way to access and distribute food to those without the means to get it themselves. 
 
Each year the Hult Prize asks business students to tackle global problems ranging from energy to housing to education. The theme for this year was personally selected by President Bill Clinton, who has supported the Challenge since 2009.
 
The challenge was to create a scalable business model that generates sustainable profits to solve the global food challenge. Solutions can focus on distribution, manufacturing, production, technology and many other things!  
 
The Hult Prize regional finals were held simultaneously in Boston, San Francisco, Dubai, Shanghai and London on 9th and 10th March. We caught up with some of the students to find out about their ideas, and the lessons they learned from this gruelling competition!

Copenhagen Business School

 
                    rsz_cbs_hult_team.jpg
 
The team: Jack Langworthy, an American who worked with farmer's cooperatives and supply chain management in Tanzania for three years; Rahul Shah, an Indian software engineer with years of experience in international business; Chiara Ercole, an Italian who works for her family-owned international Italian food business; Pantelis Colakis, from Greece, and with a background in entrepreneurship and finance on Wall Street; Faisal Alamro, a Saudi Arabian who is a telecommunications expert.
 
The business idea:  To link rural farmer cooperatives to the markets in the slum. The supply chain for food in East Africa is inefficient and 40% of food rots.The focus is on farmer cooperatives because they are already organized and tend to have far greater harvest production than independent farmers. The second aspect of the business is to sell healthier food in the slums via a community kitchen run by women.
 
To assist with the availability of the food, the business would also offer a delivery system based on the Indian Dabawal system of food delivery. 
 
Lessons learned from the competition: Rahul said, “The biggest lesson we took was from seeing the excitement and passion that sustainable businesses, with a top priority of improving lives rather than profits alone, generated amongst business schools across the world. It made us hopeful. The business idea is out there for anyone to implement, but we're focusing on our studies until September.”

IE Business School

                   rsz_ie_hult_team.jpg
 
The team: Nillakshi Pararasasegaran, born in Germany, to a family that emigrated from Sri Lanka; Alexandre Goossens, a Belgian who earned a Masters in Bioengineering with a specialization in land planning; US national David Kiefner  who worked in management consulting and also spent significant time in Latin America; Siddharth Dixit from India who recently persuaded the Indian government to fund a US$2  million vulture preservation initiative; Italian national Stefano di Bartolo who has experience in distribution and supply of pharmaceutical products in Africa.
 
The business idea: The idea developed by the team was a cooking centre that would employ slum dweller women as cookers, that would be expanded to a chain of cooking centres in activities with slums.
The idea is based on the fact that women in slums take more responsiblity than men. They manage money and the family but are most of the time under the domination of their husbands.
 
At the cooking centre, the women can also benefit from education programmes that help them become more financially independent. The food sold at the centres would be priced cheaply and can also be packaged for delivery throughout the cities. This will provide another stream of revenue while the delivery service would employ young adults from the slums.
 
Lessons learned from the competition: Alexandre said, “The biggest lesson we took out from this competition is to realize that there is a growing number of young business men and women from every corner of the world who are willing to act pro-actively on global issues. While the business world is generally synonymous with maximizing financial profit, the new generation is nevertheless turning towards other forms of profit, such as social profit.”

Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)

                rsz_p1010014.jpg
 
The team: Peter Ting, Jessica Zhuang, Cedric Zhao, Kraus Fan and Tina Sun. Peter is Chinese-Canadian and worked as an IT distributor before joining the MBA programme. He lived in Thailand and saw kids suffer from malnutrition and hunger. Jessica worked with an NGO and then as a journalist. She also used to volunteer in poor parts of China. Kraus worked in sales and thought the Challenge was a great opportunity to raise awareness for a social cause.
 
The business idea: Use vending machines to redistribute food that would otherwise be put to waste by restaurants and supermarkets. The vending machines will be operated through an information platform that is connected to food suppliers and consumers. The platform allows suppliers to enter what food they have to give away and the system detects where that food is needed, making sure to first sell off food that will expire soon. The platform will also track consumer demand and behaviour to make sure nothing is wasted.
 
The food that is to be repackaged will contain bread, vegetables, fruit and milk and will be sold for $1. These are cheap items but the packaging inadvertently teaches people how to eat well. The scheme will create jobs for people who will re-package the food and operate the vending machines. 
 
Lessons learned from the competition: Peter said, “Sometimes a very simple idea can be successful. Business models should be more practical and not focused on being theoretically sophisticated. Presentation skills are crucial. You may have a great idea but you can’t secure funding if you’re unable to communicate it clearly. The competition was a good chance to learn how people in different parts of the world like to communicate.” 

Imperial College Business School

               rsz_hult1.jpg
 
The team:  Traci Wai, Canadian, was raised in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. She studied Health Sciences at undergrad, has a Masters in French Literature and previously worked in banking.
 
Natasha Baranowski is from the UK, received a First Class Undergraduate degree in History and has founded two start-ups. She previously ran global marketing campaign for an international charity.
 
Mo’men Sinokrot has a a BSc Honours degree in Agricultural Engineering with Marketing and Management and has worked for a large food distributor in the UK where he was directly involved in the enhancement of food quality processes. He has also helped grow his family business in food production back in his native country, Palestine.
 
Gonzalo Ramirez Troxler is originally from Chile but completed his MSc in Mechanical Engineering in the Netherlands. As a Research Engineer at a leading firm he authored a patent for solar cell manufacturing.
 
All of the team are currently pursuing Imperial's MSc in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management.
 
The business idea: Increase the output of milk to raise consumption by slum dwellers, women and children. "Increasing the output of milk and creating distribution channels... to respond to the demand for affordable milk in slums without going through several middlemen is the core of our business concept”, said Traci. 
 
During their research, they found that slum dwellers were more likely to spend their money on less nutritious food and that their diets lacked protein.  The advantage of increasing protein intake through milk is that it is accepted in all cultures - and therefore needs no introduction. More importantly, it contains nine of the essential amino acids required by the human body along with other vitamins and minerals. While increasing the intake of milk would improve the health of all slum dwellers, children and women woulbenefit most. There is a strong correlation between the health of a woman in her early years and the health of her children.
 
Lessons learned at the competition: Traci said, “I think we left the Hult event with three big lessons. First, the presentation you give, your pitch, how you market yourself is everything because you are not necessarily being judged by experts on the specific topic. You therefore need to be convincing and strategic in doing so because a good idea is nothing if you cannot generate the type of interest and curiosity that is going to keep the judges listening to you from start to end. A bad idea can sell if it is advertised properly!”
 
“Secondly, we learned that we could not be afraid to scrap a business idea at any point of its development – including three days before the deadline! While it meant that we were in for a massive amount of research, work and arguing at the very last minute, it was worth it because we believed that we had a better idea.”
 
“Finally, with regards to business models, we left the challenge understanding that key to a business’ success it its distribution system, a mechanism that will see its product reach its target market. Without this in place, there is no demand and no return.”
 

Student Reviews

Copenhagen Business School (CBS)

Student

Verified

29/09/2019

CBS: efficient international network

CBS has always been ranked among the best universities in Europe and this means that it has become a sign of professionalism and success. The academic level is great thanks to the good teachers and the atmosphere is proactive and challenging. Lots of events are planned every week and this helps you to find your own way. CBS is not only a business school, it is a great and efficient international network.

Stella

Verified

24/04/2019

Good academic career

I did my Bachelors at CBS and their academic excellence and career opportunities led me to pursue my Masters in Accounting, Strategy and Control. I was very lucky to go on an exchange in Singapore for one semester it boosted me to get a career in a global firm. I like that it is super modern and has all the facilities for the business student in 2019. Especially, I liked the library and Bitlab where I spent most of my time studying. However, note that it is very demanding and studying here is no joke. Everything is very competitive and you are among the most excellent business students in the country. The interaction with international students helped me to see different perspectives in business and culturally and I was lucky to make friends from any part of the world. CBS is like a brand in Denmark. Every serious business company prioritizes us over any other Danish university and also it is free for European citizens. Overall, I have a very satisfying experience at CBS and I'm looking to continue my academical career even further.

Student

Verified

13/04/2019

CBS is one of the best!

All I have to say regarding my experience at CBS is that it is AMAZING. Having been tutored by world-class academic staff, I can definitely support that I am receiving the best of quality regarding my studies in Digital Marketing. Staff is very friendly and easy to approach. In addition, the facilities we enjoy are top class and meet any demands. Keep in mind that, EU citizens do not pay any fees. Student life might be non-existent here, but the location of the University in The very center of Copenhagen has a huge variety of choices to offer to students regarding their entertainment. Accommodation might be a problem, but early research of the market can be very useful. In addition, the University promotes diversity. In CBS University you can meet people from the whole world which is quite interesting. I definitely suggest CBS for any student who he's interested in pursuing a career in marketing or business.

Stefani

Verified

12/04/2019

The ideal business school

I have been enrolled in this university for 2 semesters. What I took from this experience is that there is nothing better out there for those looking for professional growth while being guided by some of the top-notch professors in Scandinavia. They have a really strong focus in technology and digital transformation and they are up to date to guarantee you land a job in the modern fast-evolving world. They also embrace diversity which means many students come from any part of the world and it takes the entire learning experience to another level. You simply learn from every other student cause everyone has different experiences and background which makes you open your mind and see the world from a different angle. In Denmark, even businesses prioritize people who graduate from CBS as it's commonly perceived as the most prestigious university for business graduates.

José Pedro

Verified

22/09/2019

A Place of Personal Growth

In CBS you can expect an environment of proactive thinking and growth. The university staff is always open to help and to debate. The teaching methods balance theoretical knowledge and practical skills enabling the student with capacity and confidence to enter the job market successfully. The existence of students from all over the world stimulates discussion and promotion of different cultures, ideas and perspectives. I highly recommend this university for students in business-related areas.

Cathy

Verified

5/02/2019

Environment

The environment here is really great. Despite the well organized buildings and libraries, there are also places for students to just stay and relax also even study in the corners of each campus. The professors are mostly really nice and try to interact with students a lot. So, to sum up, the environment is really nice for studying here.

Philip

Verified

15/04/2018

Quality education

Quality education where it emphazises the importance of academic. No finger to put on this aspect of the school. However, sometimes the administration and IT can be lacking a bit, but in general a really good choice for education!

Student

Verified

27/09/2017

Best Time!

Classes are challenging and conducted in a professional manner. CBS offers a wide range of possibilities to develop outside of the classes! Libraries and other facilities on the campus are very well adjusted to the student needs.

Student

Verified

22/09/2017

A heavily theory-based curriculum combined with an ever-stimulating environment

I am currently a Master student at CBS, but I have also completed a Bachelor's Degree in this university. I am quite satisfied with my studies and the teaching level. However, when compared to other business schools, it becomes apparent that most courses at CBS strive to find a good balance between theoretical insight and real-life examples. Compared to my exchange university, the projects that I have found myself writing at CBS have a far less practical application and also leave little room for creativity. If the teaching is heavily theoretical, on the bright side, the university arranges a number of events throughout the year to encourage students to apply their knowledge, in the form of career fairs, case competitions, and other events organized by student associations. In my experience, teachers are very easily approachable and happy to answer your questions. A foreign student like me will find a more international environment at Master level, since the number of international (or at least non-Scandinavian) students enrolled in the Bachelor programs is quite low. However, all communication (both oral and written) from teachers and the university offices is always in English. Administrative offices, student guidance services, the career center, and the international office are definitely worth a mention. All of the requests that I have had throughout the years have always been met with kindness, promptness and efficiency.

Student

Verified

29/09/2019

CBS: efficient international network

CBS has always been ranked among the best universities in Europe and this means that it has become a sign of professionalism and success. The academic level is great thanks to the good teachers and the atmosphere is proactive and challenging. Lots of events are planned every week and this helps you to find your own way. CBS is not only a business school, it is a great and efficient international network.

Stella

Verified

24/04/2019

Good academic career

I did my Bachelors at CBS and their academic excellence and career opportunities led me to pursue my Masters in Accounting, Strategy and Control. I was very lucky to go on an exchange in Singapore for one semester it boosted me to get a career in a global firm. I like that it is super modern and has all the facilities for the business student in 2019. Especially, I liked the library and Bitlab where I spent most of my time studying. However, note that it is very demanding and studying here is no joke. Everything is very competitive and you are among the most excellent business students in the country. The interaction with international students helped me to see different perspectives in business and culturally and I was lucky to make friends from any part of the world. CBS is like a brand in Denmark. Every serious business company prioritizes us over any other Danish university and also it is free for European citizens. Overall, I have a very satisfying experience at CBS and I'm looking to continue my academical career even further.

Student

Verified

13/04/2019

CBS is one of the best!

All I have to say regarding my experience at CBS is that it is AMAZING. Having been tutored by world-class academic staff, I can definitely support that I am receiving the best of quality regarding my studies in Digital Marketing. Staff is very friendly and easy to approach. In addition, the facilities we enjoy are top class and meet any demands. Keep in mind that, EU citizens do not pay any fees. Student life might be non-existent here, but the location of the University in The very center of Copenhagen has a huge variety of choices to offer to students regarding their entertainment. Accommodation might be a problem, but early research of the market can be very useful. In addition, the University promotes diversity. In CBS University you can meet people from the whole world which is quite interesting. I definitely suggest CBS for any student who he's interested in pursuing a career in marketing or business.

Stefani

Verified

12/04/2019

The ideal business school

I have been enrolled in this university for 2 semesters. What I took from this experience is that there is nothing better out there for those looking for professional growth while being guided by some of the top-notch professors in Scandinavia. They have a really strong focus in technology and digital transformation and they are up to date to guarantee you land a job in the modern fast-evolving world. They also embrace diversity which means many students come from any part of the world and it takes the entire learning experience to another level. You simply learn from every other student cause everyone has different experiences and background which makes you open your mind and see the world from a different angle. In Denmark, even businesses prioritize people who graduate from CBS as it's commonly perceived as the most prestigious university for business graduates.

José Pedro

Verified

22/09/2019

A Place of Personal Growth

In CBS you can expect an environment of proactive thinking and growth. The university staff is always open to help and to debate. The teaching methods balance theoretical knowledge and practical skills enabling the student with capacity and confidence to enter the job market successfully. The existence of students from all over the world stimulates discussion and promotion of different cultures, ideas and perspectives. I highly recommend this university for students in business-related areas.

Cathy

Verified

5/02/2019

Environment

The environment here is really great. Despite the well organized buildings and libraries, there are also places for students to just stay and relax also even study in the corners of each campus. The professors are mostly really nice and try to interact with students a lot. So, to sum up, the environment is really nice for studying here.

Philip

Verified

15/04/2018

Quality education

Quality education where it emphazises the importance of academic. No finger to put on this aspect of the school. However, sometimes the administration and IT can be lacking a bit, but in general a really good choice for education!

Student

Verified

27/09/2017

Best Time!

Classes are challenging and conducted in a professional manner. CBS offers a wide range of possibilities to develop outside of the classes! Libraries and other facilities on the campus are very well adjusted to the student needs.

Student

Verified

22/09/2017

A heavily theory-based curriculum combined with an ever-stimulating environment

I am currently a Master student at CBS, but I have also completed a Bachelor's Degree in this university. I am quite satisfied with my studies and the teaching level. However, when compared to other business schools, it becomes apparent that most courses at CBS strive to find a good balance between theoretical insight and real-life examples. Compared to my exchange university, the projects that I have found myself writing at CBS have a far less practical application and also leave little room for creativity. If the teaching is heavily theoretical, on the bright side, the university arranges a number of events throughout the year to encourage students to apply their knowledge, in the form of career fairs, case competitions, and other events organized by student associations. In my experience, teachers are very easily approachable and happy to answer your questions. A foreign student like me will find a more international environment at Master level, since the number of international (or at least non-Scandinavian) students enrolled in the Bachelor programs is quite low. However, all communication (both oral and written) from teachers and the university offices is always in English. Administrative offices, student guidance services, the career center, and the international office are definitely worth a mention. All of the requests that I have had throughout the years have always been met with kindness, promptness and efficiency.

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