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Banking on second chances

The Hult Global Case Challenge's Dubai team lands an opportunity to find a place in the finals despite losing out

Gulf News

Dubai: It is not every day people are given second chances to do things over in life, but a group of MBA students at the Dubai campus of the Hult International Business School are some of the lucky few.

Team Synergy was recently runner-up in the regional part of the second annual Hult Global Case Challenge. The competition challenged student teams to propose business ideas to provide access to clean water and sanitation for over 100 million people in five years.

The guidelines encouraged students to focus on providing clean water to poverty-stricken communities in India, Central America and Africa.

As lady luck would have it, Team Synergy has been given another shot at the final global competition to be held in New York next month. The Dubai-based team lost to the SDA Bocconi School of Business Management team based in Italy.

The annual competition brings together students from Hult's Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai campuses in front of a judging panel of seasoned industry professionals.

The idea is for students to propose their business solutions to the world's key social challenges.

Life Centres initiative

Team Synergy proposed the business model of "Life Centres" comprising small water kiosks to be set up in poverty-stricken urban areas or slums.

The team's idea was to build these life centres as a one-stop-shop for people's daily water and sanitation needs, funded by micro-financing and paid for through mobile phone banking.

The aim of Team Synergy's kiosks is to provide easy access to clean water for people who currently walk for hours a day to access clean water — a basic life necessity.

"This idea has been implemented on a small scale in some poor areas of the world but we thought we'd take an already existing innovation and build on it," said Anna-Maria Anesti, from Team Synergy.

"An important part of our thinking for the life centres was to create jobs for the local community to be able to sustain itself at the grass-roots level."

The concept of the life centres is to build a mini community centre selling water for less than $1 a litre with clean toilet facilities at the back of the kiosk.

"Our future plan was to expand the front part of the kiosks to allow for governments to set up ration shops and health and education centres for these people," Anesti said.

Polished presentations

However, all is not lost as Team Synergy now has a second chance to see their life centres initiative come to life.

In an online off-shoot of the competition, the team will upload a two-minute video presentation along with other losing teams. The team with the most votes will compete in the finals in April.

"To have a second chance is amazing because we can now polish our presentation using the judges' feedback," Anesti said.

"We were really disappointed that we didn't go through because at the end of the day the only winners are the billions of people with no access to clean water."

For this year's challenge, in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and, Hult has donated $1 million to

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