Published: 10th November 2018
T-Hub at Three: Why Srinivas Kollipara believes red-tape and politics will never stop them
Srinivas Kollipara also talks about former Cabinet Minister KTR and how T-Hub will turn Hyderabad into a true blue global city
The last thing you would wish to hear from Srinivas Kollipara, the CEO at T-Hub, is that between Hyderabad and Bengaluru, the latter is way ahead in its game when it comes to start-ups, though he did admit that being compared to Bengaluru in such a short span of time itself is “crazy”. But like all good leaders, he is being both a champion and a critique of his cause — which in this case is the independent entity, T-Hub. “We have a long way to go, but we have progressed immensely since the beginning. People are already talking about us,” says Kollipara, while chatting with us about the City of Nizams’ acumen. In a freewheeling chat, he tells us about what it takes to build an ecosystem for start-ups, why former Cabinet Minister KT Rama Rao is awesome and when Hyderabad will have its own unicorn. Excerpts:
Building an ecosystem
The ecosystem is about figuring out your local stakeholders — government, corporates, education institutions, investors — and how they impact innovation. We need to create win-win situations for all. For example, the government wants job creation and it is good at policy. So it should create policies that stimulate innovation and look at policies which get in the way of innovation, like rideshare. When you ensure that each stakeholder gets what they want, you build an ecosystem. That is why Innovation Centres at Nizamabad and Warangal are happening.
The elusive unicorn
People forget that five years ago, nothing was happening in Hyderabad. Even when KTR approached me, saying that he wants to do something for the ecosystem, I told him the government needs to stay away. Because this is a 20-year game and the government operates in five-year election cycles. He got that. I bet I wouldn’t have been able to set a T-Hub in any other state. So we need to think long-term. It takes at least ten years for a unicorn to come by. The question is not when we will see a unicorn, it is if we have potential unicorns, which we do. We are building them in two ways, looking locally to find the best start-ups and working with them, under our incubation programme. Then there is importing start-ups from other places. Companies which scale somewhere else and then move here, the knowledge they bring in impacts everybody. Even in Bengaluru, most companies are not originally from there. Corporate innovation helps too, wherein we connect corporates looking for innovation to start-ups that can solve their problems. For our recent Otis Innovation Challenge, we received applications from 19 countries. They all have to come here for the programme and by working out of here, everyone benefits. So it speeds up that race to build or attract that unicorn.
Looking into the future
T-Hub was formed with a mission to make Hyderabad one of the start-up cities of the world. This is a piece of the bigger mission to make Hyderabad one of the top global cities. We always knew that Hyderabad had the ingredients to make it — infrastructure, it was a trading base and a diverse population, large pharma and life sciences companies, defence and aerospace entities like ICRISAT, world-class institutes like IIIT-H, IIT-H, ISB, BITS, NALSAR — the only piece missing was innovation. And we are trying to fill that space. T-Hub has the density in place, but that is not enough. Another thing we are doing is international programmes that actually helps start-ups to scale. And if you want start-ups to scale in your country, they need to be of a certain maturity. We started a programme with Canada wherein nine companies will be coming here and doing unique things other start-ups are not doing and we are helping them in other ways too. Two with Australia and one with the UK are also in the pipeline. The idea is that T-Hub becomes the best scaling engine in the country. There is no company which is doing just that. Another phase would be to build centres for emerging technologies by picking two or three areas and become good at those.
One cannot build another Bengaluru or a Silicon Valley. You have to look at what is different in your own state and think of solutions which are scalable. Jugaad is a way to use blunt force for that one situation, but can you scale it?
Srinivas Kollipara, CEO, T-Hub
Srinivas Kollipara's five fundamentals for start-ups
- Study the problem
Make sure you know the problem you are tackling
- Don’t fall in love with your solution
Sometimes people are so in love with the solution that they think, ‘We must make it work no matter what’, which is wrong
- Funds are for scaling
Set up the solution, get your first set of customers who seem to be happy with the product, bootstrap as much as possible and then look for funds to scale
- Your business model is your product
There are enough companies that failed though they had incredible technology. So your product is not your product, your business model is your product
- Focus on going deep first, rather than going broad
Understand the market and don’t try to do too many things at once
For more on him, click on linkedin.com/in/skollipara