Published: 30th August 2020
SRiX appeal: This Warangal-based incubator is setting a new standard for incubators. This is how
SR Innovation Exchange at Warangal can prove to be a safe haven for all those start-ups that are looking for strong mentorship. This is how Sreedevi Devireddy is taking it to the next level
When we say Warangal, we are pretty sure your mind instantly conjures up the glorious image of the Thousand Pillar Temple or the Kakatiya Kala Thoranam, which serves as the emblem of Telangana State, both images synonymous with the city. But what we think is Warangal, which was originally the capital of the great Kakatiya dynasty, is soon going to be synonymous with innovation and entrepreneurship as well. At least the cornerstone has been laid in the form of SR Innovation Exchange (SRiX), an incubator (though it has evolved to be much more than that) at SR University (formerly SR Engineering College), the same 140-acre educational institution that climbed right to the top of the table in the category of Private Institutions in the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA 2020). There is no doubt about the fact that SRiX has had a significant role to play when it comes to achieving this feat.
SRiX | (Pic: SRiX)
When it was time to start
Helmed by the former executive director of TiE Hyderabad, Sreedevi Devireddy, the state of art facility that is SRiX was inaugurated on March 5, 2018 by Minister for Municipal Administration & Urban Development KT Rama Rao. Before you wonder what's so special about the incubator, let us address the question. Supported by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, and eventually, Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) and AICTE as well, this Technology Business Incubator (TBI) has roomy workspaces, a well-equipped IoT workshop, makerspace and prototyping facilities as well. They have supported over 31 start-ups till date from Gurugram, Bengaluru and even Hyderabad, which is just a three-hour drive away from Warangal. "The opportunities that we have in the metros should ideally be available across the country. This is one way to enable innovation anywhere and eventually, even put a stop to migration," says the CEO of SRiX Devireddy.
Devireddy gives credit to SR University's A Varadha Reddy Chancellor and A Madhukar Reddy, Secretary-Cum-Correspondent for having the vision to encourage the formation of SRiX
This two-floor massive building stands tall and proud, and indeed, is the glory of SR University, but before it was built, the dynamic Devireddy needed to know exactly what was needed. In a bid to understand, the National Entrepreneurship Awardee toured the facility of Kerala Startup Mission and the incubators at IIT Madras and IIT Bombay. But she did not stop there. Being a Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP) fellow in 2018, she visited catapult and innovation zones in the UK with a one-point agenda — to understand how one can give wings to start-ups. "My biggest takeaway was that we must start big, we must begin with all facilities instead of opting for an incremental rise in facilities," says the Governing Board Member, S R Univeristy. Which is why SRiX, which focuses on start-ups in the agriculture, IoT, AI and ML space, is a one-stop-shop for innovators. "Because when entrepreneurs with their innovation mindset, faculty with a strong forte in research and experienced Corporate experts come together, one-of-a-kind start-ups are born," she points out.
Devireddy with KT Rama Rao during the inauguration of SRiX | (Pic: SRiX)
Warangal has no airport which puts it at a locational disadvantage. So how did Devireddy, who identifies herself has a hardcore Hyderabadi, manage to shift to Ekashila Nagaram (a city known to have been carved from a single stone) and how does she ensure that SRiX also continues to attract budding innovators? "Well, Hyderabad is a short drive away and honestly, I don't miss it much. And as far as the innovators go, all it takes is for them to visit us and they are convinced," she explains. The mentor pool and the support that they offer, from legal, accountancy and even filing for IPR, all this is enough to convince any hustler that they will never walk alone if they shake hands with SRiX. She hopes that initiatives like these will keep youngsters from running away to Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Speaking of youngsters, she informs us that they are very focused on nurturing student entrepreneurs, hence, they have as many as eight student start-ups incubated with them and have supported more than 220 Student innovators in the past 2 years.
"If you have passion for solving problems that are staring you in the face, then you have the potential to be a disruptor," says Devireddy
For you, dear disruptors
Since Devireddy wants to disrupt the notion of an incubator, the former entrepreneur has a word of advice for the other disruptors, or those who want to be one, especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic. "A disruptor is the one who rethinks assumptions to identify creative opportunities. For some time now, many start-up ideas were considered disrupting and they were doing good business too. Corona has filtered them out. But if you are a true blue disruptor, no one can stop you," affirms the innovation evangelist. A stickler for the basics, the entrepreneurial powerhouse reminds us that research and knowing your market is paramount in laying the right groundwork for your start-up. From starting her career as a student advisor to spending 22+ years in various organisations, Devireddy feels like, "I have been jogging so far and now, it's time to run." What the Pride of Telangana 2019 awardee means is that she has miles to go before she sleeps and she intends to take SRiX with her.
Meet two start-ups incubated at SRiX
Running on full battery
Arun Sreyas and Gautham Maheswaran | (Pic: RACEnergy)
The future is electric and if all goes well, RACEnergy will have a huge role to play in it. Virtually incubated at SRiX, this start-up started in 2018 builds battery swapping stations so that vehicles can simply swap instead of waiting to charge their EVs. "Since we are a product-driven company, our focus is hardware. There are few incubators with a strong focus on IoT and hardware and SRiX is one of them," says 25-year-old Arun Sreyas, alumnus of BITS Pilani, who founded the start-up with Gautham Maheswaran. They have their own one-acre facility in Hyderabad, where they are based out of and where they are developing products. Their pre-orders have started and they're looking to launch next year.
Try before you buy
Mohan Ponnada and Tagore Navabothu | (Pic: Varaha Innovation Studios)
How many times have you wished you could try that smashing outfit that you saw online before actually buying it? Varaha Innovation Studios can make it happen. Their AR-enabled 3D avatar enables you to try on those clothes before you put your money on it. Founded by Mohan Ponnada and Tagore Navabothu in July 2018, this virtual trial room of theirs is called Wonder. SRiX, where they are virtually incubated, connected them to investors and organised feedback sessions too. "We have signed up with seven different platforms and are in the process of uploading their inventory. By the first week of September, we will go live with the first virtual mall and by mid-September, we will be live on five platforms," says 33-year-old Mohan.
Collaborations that became milestones:
- July 2020: They entered into a partnership with TiE Hyderabad to offer incubation support for the women entrepreneurs
- February 2020: They partnered with Tech Mahindra to offer XELERATE, a three-month acceleration programme
- November 2019: InnovationX 2.0 was organised by SRiX for student innovators
- July 2019: They launched Deep Tech Catalyser 1.0 a pre-incubation programme for companies in the AI and ML space
- In January 2019: They entered into a pact with UK's Cranfield University to provide start-ups with business development and academic expertise
For more on them, check out srix.in