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We will not poke our nose in T-Hub: Telangana IT minister

Some entrepreneurs, especially from coastal Andhra, have expressed apprehensions that the government would selectively encourage entrepreneurs from Telangana at T-Hub. But K.T. Rama Rao said that was not the case. Photo: WikiMedia CommonsPremium
Some entrepreneurs, especially from coastal Andhra, have expressed apprehensions that the government would selectively encourage entrepreneurs from Telangana at T-Hub. But K.T. Rama Rao said that was not the case. Photo: WikiMedia Commons

T-Hub is open for talented entrepreneurs from across the country, and not just from Telangana, said Telangana's IT minister K.T. Rama Rao

Hyderabad: T-Hub, dubbed as the country’s largest technology incubator, is open for talented entrepreneurs from across the country, and not just from Telangana, said K.T. Rama Rao, Telangana’s information technology minister, even as the government said it will not “poke its nose" in the operations of the facility.

“This is not for Telangana techies alone but to attract major talent from across the country," Rao said on Monday during a media tour of the facility. “T-Hub is open for everybody."

Some entrepreneurs, especially from coastal Andhra, have expressed apprehensions that the government would selectively encourage entrepreneurs from the newly-created state of Telangana at T-Hub. But Rao said that was not the case.

“The government will not poke its nose into the day-to-day affairs of T-Hub," the minister said. There will be no special requests from the government to consider any company. Start-ups will be chosen solely based on the merit of their idea by a panel consisting of T-Hub’s chief executive officer and others.

The government will be represented by its information technology (IT) secretary who will be on the board of T-Hub. The board, like any other board, will be responsible for overseeing the organization, making policy decisions, and giving direction, Rao said.

T-Hub will be managed by a set of executives that includes CEO Jay Krishnan and chief operating officer Srinivas Kollipara, who have experience of working within the start-up ecosystem.

“We wanted it to be as un-government like as possible," said Rao. “I don’t think entrepreneurs can thrive in a government-like environment."

T-Hub will be “completely autonomous" and “free spirited" just the way entrepreneurs in a free-market economy prefer, Rao added.

T-Hub will be self-sustainable by leasing office space for start-ups.The government spent 40 crore to build a swanky 70,000 sq. ft office space called Catalyst for start-ups in Gachibowli suburb of Hyderabad. The second phase of T-Hub, spanning 300,000 sq. ft, will be constructed within three years at an estimated cost of 150 crore. The Telangana government will build it in public private partnership mode or with assistance from the Union government.

Telangana, which has lost out to Bengaluru in attracting start-ups to Hyderabad because of uncertainty surrounding a prolonged statehood movement from 2009-14, is trying to revive lost ground by replicating Bengaluru’s start-up ecosystem model with its T-Hub facility.

“We are aiming to create the same ecosystem here," Rao told a group of journalists. T-Hub has tied up with 20 venture capital firms, two of whom have taken office space inside the facility. Start-up pitches will be a regular affair at the facility. It will also have accelerators and about 60 mentors to nurture start-ups. Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy will be one of the advisors.

The government of Telangana is chipping in with 10 crore for an innovation fund dedicated to start-ups incubating at T-Hub. It expects angel, venture capital and private equity investors to contribute 90 crore to take the fund size to 100 crore. Eventually, it hopes to create a 600 crore corpus dedicated to T-Hub start-ups.

Faculty members of the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, will guide start-ups on best technology platforms to build their solutions on, while the Indian School of Business professors will advice founders on commercializing a product. Faculty from Nalsar University of Law will help them with patenting technologies and intellectual property rights.

The government will not pick up stakes in the companies it invests in. The only “tangible" returns it expects are in terms of employment creation and revenue generation, Rao added.

But why is the government gung ho about building a start-up ecosystem in Hyderabad when it is better off chasing big-ticket investments?

“We know the failure rate is very high for start-ups," said Rao. “Even if 10% of them (start-ups) succeed—not success with a Google kind of a barometer, if it happens, it’s good, but atleast a redBus kind of a success—we would have created a staunch business case in terms of employment, in terms of revenues."

Rao was referring to Phanindra Sama, the co-founder of bus ticketing website redBus.in. Sama, a BITS Pilani and Indian Institute of Science graduate, hails from Nizamabad district of Telangana but chose to start Redbus in Bengaluru. Redbus (incorporated as Pilani Soft Labs Pvt. Ltd), went on to employ 600 people by the time it was acquired by Ibibo Group in June 2013. Had Sama started Redbus in Hyderabad, more local jobs would have been created, reasoned minister Rao.

T-Hub will be formally launched on 5 November by E.S.L. Narasimhan, governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and Ratan Tata, chairman-emeritus of Tata Sons. It will commence operations with 140 start-ups selected from a pool of 500 applicants. About 200 are waitlisted. Start-ups at T-Hub will be divided into three broad categories: launchpad (early stage), accelerator (slightly advanced stage), and propeller (go-to market stage).

The selected start-ups will have six months, extendable up to 12 months on a case-by-case basis, to execute their idea and scale it up. Shortlisted start-ups have solutions around digital commerce, data analytics, digital marketing, social, telemetry, social, cloud and mobile, CEO Krishnan said.

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