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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Expect startup unicorns from Telangana soon, says new CEO of T-Hub

T-Hub has impacted over 1,800 startups and helped them raise funding of over Rs 2,300 crore to date.

Written by Rahul V Pisharody | Hyderabad |
Updated: November 23, 2021 2:05:18 pm
The new T-Hub building(above) will be inaugurated soon. It has an area of 3.5 lakh sq ft area, five times the size of its present building.

Seeking to scale up entrepreneurship in Telangana, M Srinivas Rao, the new CEO of T-Hub, says that the Covid pandemic is a ‘perfect storm’ that opened up new possibilities for innovators and entrepreneurs. Speaking to indianexpress.com, he says unicorns are set to soon emerge from the state.

Telangana’s T-Hub, conceived and supported by the state government, has transformed from a startup incubator to an innovation ecosystem enabler over the last six years and is all set to shift gears by moving into a new facility five times its present capacity.

T-Hub has impacted over 1,800 startups and helped them raise funding of over Rs 2,300 crore to date. After taking over the top job recently, Rao strongly believes that time is ripe for Telangana to lead the innovation and incubation space in the country.

T-Hub has big plans ahead under the new leadership. When compared to 160 startups presently working out of a building inside the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) campus in Hyderabad, the new facility spread over 3.5 lakh sq ft can accommodate approximately 800 plus startups under one roof.

After taking over the top job recently, Rao strongly believes that time is ripe for Telangana to lead the innovation and incubation space in the country.

Apart from dedicated space for mentors, service providers, the new facility has a larger space for the industry association Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and will also house two leading banks on campus. “We want to have all the ecosystem players under one roof so that ideation, connections, collective brainstorming, etc will happen a lot more and these coalitions will lead to faster growth of the ecosystem,” he said.

Rao has a target too in mind. He says the quantum of capital raised in the ecosystem in the last six years would be approximately over $4 billion. “The aim is to get it closer to 10 billion dollars in the next two-three years. We want to have more partners. There are about 5000 startups in Hyderabad at present. As an ecosystem enabler, we are looking at doubling this in the next two to three years,” he avers.

A serial entrepreneur for three decades, Rao believes this is possible. While saying T-Hub has built a strong foundation for the startup ecosystem, he credits the visionary political leadership for conceiving and supporting a unique model that is run like a professional enterprise. The Telangana government had collaborated with IIIT-Hyderabad, the Indian School of Business(ISB), and the NALSAR University of Law to create a platform for startups to access mentors, investors, corporates, talent, industry, and government agencies.

“There are industry bodies like NASSCOM, CII, TIE, TASK, T-Works, WeHub, and RICH, etc fostering and promoting entrepreneurship. Going ahead, we want to engage with them and build a single ecosystem that can support the initial setup, get more people to start enterprises, and then help them to scale up.”

As a novel initiative under the state innovation policy, the government has started T-Fund, a co-investment fund to further support startups along with VCs and angel investors. “We are setting up a small fund to start with. There are a number of things that are set in motion. The challenge is to scale them and scale them quickly.”

Listing out a few successful examples of T-Hub incubatees such as Marut drones, Gayam motors, Skyroot Aerospace, MyGate App, Amplify Infra, Flytta, LegitDoc, Next Skills 360, and Opstech, etc, Rao says the focus remains on combining social purpose and technology. The new-age sectors such as blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotics, HealthTech, EduTech, cyber security, data analytics, AssistiveTech, clean energy, and mobility, etc are some of the areas of focus.

Despite a congenial environment and progressive government policy, T-Hub has not been able to top the charts in terms of innovation rankings. Telangana stood fourth in terms of ‘efficiency in innovation’ in the India Innovation Index 2020 ranking by NITI Aayog. While admitting that rankings are a direct indicator of one’s performance, Rao feels they are also contextual. “It does not say when you started out or how fast you are moving up the rankings. Sometimes you have the disadvantage of having started later, we may be a little behind in the rankings. What is important is how quickly we are going up the rankings. Are you making year-on-year progress? From that perspective, Telangana has been shooting out.”

In the days to come, T-Hub is exploring ways and means to reach out to small towns and villages. Rao says the idea is to ensure an impact on all 33 districts of Telangana, have more startups get off the ground by providing quicker access to the 4 Ms – mentors, money, manpower, and market, and democratize tech-led entrepreneurship. “Currently we are working with 30 colleges from Telangana,” says Rao. T-Hub, he says, is helping them make their incubation cells stronger and inculcate a culture of entrepreneurship among youngsters. “A lot is being done. A lot more needs to be done. It can be done. It will be done.”

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