“It is not this building,” emphasised Srinivas Kollipara, chief operating officer of T-Hub, a Telangana government initiative for startups housed in the 70,000 sq.ft Catalyst Building.
Kollipara was speaking on Saturday at the first event to be held at the Catalyst Building in Hyderabad’s International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT- Hyderabad) campus.
But if it is not a building, what is it? Besides providing co-working spaces for startups, T-Hub aims to be a support system that connects organisations and stakeholders, including venture capitalists, seed funds, and research institutes. The Catalyst Building is dotted with motivational slogans by start-up founders, drawings of inventions and inventors on glass panels, and has large open areas meant for start-ups to exchange ideas.
From aiming to equip innovators with best practices, gleaning actionable insights from research organisations and making this available to start-ups, educating investors (who are not necessarily from a tech or start-up background) about how start-ups work to inculcating ideas by culling problem statements from various sources and transferring this knowledge to people, the detailed roadmap that T-Hub has planned for catalysing the Hyderabad start-up ecosystem is impressive.
Hyderabad startups’ problems are several: Lack of a support system, early-stage mentorship, investor connects, and viable exits.
The Catalyst Building, with a Rs.50 crore fund from the Telangana government, was to be inaugurated on 1 June, but was delayed multiple times.
An additional Rs.200 crore would be invested to construct a 300,000 sq.ft building at a separate location, according to a 24 January Mint report.
Kollipara allayed fears that the government would interfere. “T-Hub is not a government organisation. We’re supported by the government but that’s all. And that’s a good thing,” he said.
T-Hub’s board has 10 members, including B.V.R. Mohan Reddy, chairman Nasscom; C.P. Gurnani, chief executive officer, Tech Mahindra; Sashi Reddi, founder of seed stage venture fund SRI Capital; and Jayesh Ranjan, secretary, information technology, Electronics and Communications Department, Government of Telangana.
Some of the costs of the building are to be offset by the revenues it would bring in through rentals. A number of start-ups have registered for space, but the applications are yet to be processed. Among them, Sandra Riedl, a start-up founder with offices in Boston and Hyderabad, is all set to move her eight-member Hyderabad team into the co-working space.
However, T-Hub doesn’t comprehensively address one of the biggest challenges Hyderabad-based start-ups are facing—the lack of early-stage support and mentorship.
“None of the start-up babas support the right way. The people who want to get into entrepreneurship, they don’t know the 10 things they need to do to be a successful entrepreneur and the ecosystem is not offering many of them. Space is only one bit of 10 things that they need,” said Suresh Perugu, a Silicon Valley-returned Hyderabad-resident who advised start-ups in his personal capacity.
The overarching scope of what T-Hub wants to achieve is grand, but the devil, as they say, will be in the details and how they manage to deliver what they promise.