Ravi Narayan will step down as CEO of T-Hub Hyderabad, the Telangana government’s startup catalyst, in September 2021.
Note to readers: While we accept the reality of the coronavirus, it is important to be optimistic. We must believe that there will be a day when the disease will no longer be the all-destroying scourge it is today. And when that day comes, we will be able to enjoy life, maybe with a few adjustments, the way we did before Covid-19. To that end, we are starting ‘If Covid Vanished ...’, a series of interviews with corporate heads and achievers, where we ask them where they’d like to travel or eat, who’d they like to meet, and so on, if the world became Corona-mukt. Follow the series here.
After a stellar academic and professional life, Ravi Narayan has an opportunity to take a break. Come September, the IIT Madras engineer and University of Southern California MBA will step down as CEO of T-Hub Hyderabad, the Telangana government’s startup catalyst. He spent nearly two and a half years in the role, before which he was global director at Microsoft for Startups.
Pandemic permitting, Ravi would like to fly to New York to meet his sons and then visit Yellowstone National Park. Travel aside, he would like to lead a simple life based on the ‘less is more’ philosophy. Or as he calls it, ‘less is bliss’.
A conversation with Ravi on things he’d do when the world opens up again.
If Covid went away or became manageable, which city would you like to travel to first and why, especially now as you are probably looking at a few months of downtime?
I would like to go to New York City. The city is back to normal. And it is summertime. I draw a lot of energy from the hustle and bustle of the city. My older sons live there and my youngest son starts college in the city soon. There is no better place I can think of for my wife and I to spend time as we plan our next phase, that of empty-nesters.
Which restaurant/ bar would you go to first and why?
I still go out to restaurants and have my day-outs and nights out, but I would prefer to travel to places without fear of catching a new virus. A drink would taste much better if I did not worry about the hotel's/ bar's sanitation.
There is something special about networking in a setting like the Glass Onion, Hyderabad, overlooking the golf course where my team went recently. (It’s an) open air, safe environment, where people can build back those close bonds that got weakened during the pandemic.
Which famous stranger would you like to invite home and talk to and why?
That will be Elon Musk, a man with an enigmatic and multi-layered personality. It would be fascinating to talk with the man who has dominated the field of innovation, and get to know the way he breaks down and analyzes problems to come up with solutions. It will be a fascinating experience to engage him in a conversation on spirituality and how he thinks beyond the intellectual constructs that we are often used to.
What public performance/ occasion would you like to attend?
A stand-up comedy show will be my first option. A good laugh is something we all deserve, if it is from a clever comedian like Vir Das, then that is the best. Apart from that, a Sufi music concert would be a delight.
What group activity would you like to participate in?
My sons and I are planning to go on a long-pending road trip to Yellowstone National Park. We will plan to experience other national parks in Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon and Utah. I have not met my older sons for 20 months now and I have been holed up with my youngest one at home for 18 months. So, this road trip is a much needed group activity that I am looking forward to.
What new skills would you like to learn?
My social media game could use a boost, especially Twitter, Instagram and Clubhouse. The world of social media is fascinating, and while I am not unfamiliar with these platforms, I would like to experiment with the algorithms.
The first song that comes to mind when you think of a Covid-free world.
Honestly, I do not know what I would be humming then. But right now, I am humming John Lennon's ‘Imagine’ on loop in order to manifest a COVID-free world. The hope he gives me is like no other.
What would your approach to money be for life post-Covid?
When water recedes you begin to see rocks in the river. Likewise the pandemic has uncovered and laid bare the challenges with livelihood that people faced across the country. While I had a deep empathy for the livelihoods of people earlier, my understanding has moved from intellectual to emotional and visceral. I lost several friends and family during the pandemic. My priorities have changed with deeper emphasis on family, relationships and satisfaction, none of which money can buy.
What new invention/ gadget would you like to see that would help us deal with future pandemics?
My mind goes to Sam Pitroda's recent book Redesign the World. The book discusses how the current societal, political, and technological constructs have become obsolete. The pandemic has, in my opinion, allowed us to redesign the world.
What would your motto be for life after the pandemic?
It has made me realize, “We don’t need SO MANY THINGS”. There is no need for the numerous gym equipment. I can make do with my yoga mat and things already at my house as an alternative. Instead of physically attending so many meetings, I can manage them as effectively via email and video calls, spend my free time with family, and free up more time for reading, following sports and meditation. My motto now is ‘Less is bliss.’