Four Indians are among the winners of a Harvard Business School competition that awards prizes worth over USD 300,000 to new and innovative business and social impact start-ups conceptualised by the US institution’s students and alumni.
Harvard MBA student Amrita Siagal won the grand prize in the ‘Social Enterprise’ category at the 18th Harvard Business School New Venture Competition for her venture ‘Saathi’, which she cofounded with Oracle engineer Kristin Kagetsu.
Saathi provides affordable sanitary pads made from waste banana tree fibre to women in rural India.
Siagal and Kagetsu, who both hold mechanical engineering degrees from MIT, received a USD 50,000 prize at the competition, which supports both students and alumni launching new business and social impact ventures inspired by “belief that one simple idea can change everything”.
Saathi also got the audience choice award through an electronic crowd vote.
The winner in the business track category was the start-up ‘Alfred’, being launched by Saurabh Mahajan, Marcela Sapone and Jess Beck.
Alfred is a concierge service individuals can use for their daily and weekly tasks, including dry cleaning, house cleaning, groceries, laundry, and more.
The Alfred team also won USD 50,000.
The runner-up in the social enterprise track was ‘Tomato Jos’ founded by MBA students Mira Mehta and Mike Lawrence. ‘Tomato Jos’ is a vertically integrated tomato processing company that helps small farmers in Nigeria grow tomatoes that can then be made into tomato paste.
In the business category, ‘Booya Fitness’ founded by MBA student Pritar Kumar won the runner-up award and a USD 25,000 cash prize.
The venture is an on-demand video platform featuring workouts created by the industry’s best boutique gyms and instructors.
The capstone event of the HBS’s expansive offerings in entrepreneurship, this year’s competition attracted 150 Harvard MBA candidates as well as students from six other Harvard graduate schools.
In addition, HBS graduates from 17 HBS alumni “hub” clubs worldwide participated in 14 regional competitions.
As part of the finale programme, a member of each venture delivered a 90-second pitch to the audience, leading to an electronic crowd vote.
Over the course of the entire competition, which began last fall, more than 200 judges and mentors took part.
Alumni winners were chosen by an online crowd vote by other HBS graduates around the globe, HBS students, and a panel of judges in three categories – most innovative, greatest impact, and best investment.
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