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‘We don't just offer ease of doing business, also offer peace of doing business’: Telangana IT Minister KT Rama Rao

In an interview, KTR elaborated on the new innovation campus, fostering innovation in the state and why he believes the state is an attractive investment destination for overseas companies.

June 28, 2022 / 09:26 PM IST
The new 10-floor T-Hub building is going to have an entire floor dedicated to VC firms.

The new 10-floor T-Hub building is going to have an entire floor dedicated to VC firms.

T-Hub, an incubator for startups situated on Hyderabad’s International Institute of Information Technology campus, was a collaborative effort from the state government, three premier educational institutes and the private sector in 2015 — the brainchild of Information Technology Minister KT Rama Rao. Seven years on, the Telangana government has unveiled what it calls the world’s largest innovation campus which includes the second phase of T-Hub. Speaking to Moneycontrol on the sidelines of the unveiling, KTR elaborated on his plans for T-Hub, fostering innovation in the state and why he believes the state is an attractive investment destination for overseas companies.

The 18-acre campus, which includes prototyping facility T Works and the IMAGE Tower (under construction) with 2.3 million square feet, is what KTR's vision is, stating that when the complete campus is unveiled in August, it will be “full of startups and innovators”.

“This 18-acre campus, which is completely backed by the government, is possibly the largest effort of any government in India in terms of driving innovation in terms of being an enabler for the startup world,” said KTR. Phase two of T-Hub was first supposed to be inaugurated in 2020, and has since been pushed multiple times, with the pandemic throwing a spanner in the works.

His vision for the campus itself is not just the new building (which is significantly larger than Phase 1) but also about the culture of innovation. This, he says, is not just in the technology space but also in all emerging technologies. “There’s a prototyping facility for product companies. T-Hub Phase 2 will be for a lot of tech startups. The IMAGE Tower is for innovation in animation, multimedia, gaming, and entertainment. A culmination of all this is what I believe will make Hyderabad a very important hub for the next spurt of growth. Hopefully, this will create not just unicorns but long-term sustainable products and service-oriented companies and enterprises.”

He states that in India, state governments do not have enough money to devote to research and development according to world standards on innovation and on campuses.

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“What we thought is if Hyderabad's innovation culture has to be encouraged, and if Hyderabad really has to become an important hub in innovation, the government can be the primary driver. That's why we thought of this campus as such. Instead of a university campus, you will have a lot of youngsters here who could be from a variety of backgrounds. They could come here, they could dabble in what they want and then when they want to scale up, they could go to any place nearby and possibly find space and continue to grow,” he says.

The new 10-floor T-Hub building is going to have an entire floor dedicated to VC firms alone to set up to help bridge the gap between VCs and startup founders looking to pitch their products or service.

“What we do is basically bring in VCs of all hues and shades and have them be here so that anybody who wants to come pitch and present themselves as an opportune investment, they will have that access. I think that will bridge that gap to an extent but ultimately, it's your product, it's your service, and the merit of it,” he points out.

However, the minister adds that innovation isn’t to be limited to the capital city Hyderabad alone, but is being expanded to tier-2 cities in the state. Plug-and-play facilities have been built in Warangal, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Khammam and Nalgonda, and each of these locations will have a smaller version of T-Hub as well as an outpost of the Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge.

“I think it is not just about Hyderabad being the epicentre or the hub for innovation, but it's also about all these tier-2 towns coming into play. We've built the infrastructure. Now, it is for the youngsters of these towns to really seize the opportunity and continue to build on that momentum,” he says.

But, it’s not just startups. The Telangana government has wooed several multinationals to set up shop in Hyderabad, and now several IT companies, such as Cyient, Tech Mahindra and Mindtree, have a presence in Warangal as well. While companies may have been coy about shifting to tier-2 and tier-3 locations, KTR points out that things have changed due to the pandemic and more importantly, small and medium companies are also now looking at tier-2 cities and towns. “Each of the plug-and-play facilities that we have built is fully occupied. I’m excited and kicked that some of them are even building their own campuses… That excites me, that gives me a lot of hope for the future, that the small and medium companies will actually grow big and inspire others.”

The state has consistently pitched itself as an investment destination to companies looking to set up shop, the latest of which is Foxconn. While other states have also made pitches, KTR says he tells investors that their experience of India will depend on what gateway they choose to India from.

“Therefore, I present my state as a most dynamic, most progressive and, we don't just offer ease of doing business, we also offer peace of doing business. In terms of clearances, in terms of no union disturbances, in terms of no issues with respect to communal harmony, etc., I think we are that state which is the most progressive, which is the most forward looking,” he says, adding that overseas companies are not just looking at an anchor state but also looking to partner with states.

But with regard to the pitching for overseas companies to set up shop when the state often competes with neighbouring states, KTR stresses the competition is not with another state in India.

“Any investor who's looking at India is considering or is weighing between India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. When you're talking to an investor, let's have it in mind that it's not just your state that you represent, but it's your country. If I'm able to position my state as that destination which can compete with the likes of Indonesia, Vietnam or Malaysia, I think that is what is going to clinch it for me, not just a face-off between Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu,” he states.
Haripriya Suresh
first published: Jun 28, 2022 08:26 pm
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