Leadership is not a skill one can acquire. It has to be there within. This holds good even more so in politics. Leading by example is something that positions a person a cut above the others. And, Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao, popular as KTR, has actually epitomized this more by his deeds than words. In spite of staying in the US for almost six years, KTR stayed rooted to the ground as he had not lost touch with what’s happening back home.
Taking the plunge into politics in itself was driven by the inspiration of his illustrious father and the President of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), K Chandrashekar Rao, who was, by then, leading the agitation for a separate Telangana. KTR resigned from his cozy global assignment and jumped into the movement as an ordinary party worker. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly from Sircilla constituency of Karimnagar district in the undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2009 and he was re-elected in a by-election with a huge margin.
Crossing numerous hurdles, KCR realized the dream of formation of Telangana in 2014. KTR, who played a very active role in the movement and was again elected from Sircilla in 2014, turned out to be a natural choice for the Chief Minister to induct him into the Cabinet. He was endowed with important portfolios like Information Technology, Industries, Panchayat Raj & Rural Development (later replaced with Municipal Administration & Urban Development), Mines & Geology, Handlooms & Textiles.
Like the proverbial duck taking to water, KTR slid into his new Constitutional role with a great alacrity and quickly got into work just to prove a point that he means business. Meeting with academia and industry, practically going to their doorstep, KTR has inspired many of them to take a proactive role in building the dream State of Telangana.
In fact, vested interests had dubbed the separate Telangana movement as retrograde and anti-development from a business and investments perspective. However, KTR has picked up the ropes and stood up to the vilification campaign. He did not want to limit his challenges. Instead, he challenged his limits and began driving the State on a path of accelerated growth.
In the process, KTR, unwittingly, has become the Brand Ambassador of Telangana. When a minister of any State would not become popular pan-India, KTR has carved a niche for himself in such a manner that he catapulted into prominence and began making headlines across India. Even world leaders and captains of global industries have begun recognizing his talent. It’s with this ardour that he impressed Tim Cook or John Chambers or Sunder Pichai.
KTR became the poster boy of Telangana on any national or international forums – the likes of World Economic Forum (WEF) summit held in Davos — showcasing the investment-friendly climate of the State and driving many marquee companies into the State. He successfully positioned Telangana as the investors’ choice in all his visits to the United States of America, Japan, Korea, Singapore and other countries.
The world majors like Salesforce, ZF, and as latest as Goldman Sachs and many others practically have their skin in the game in Telangana, what with the effort of KTR, who can singularly be credited with the achievement of attracting new investments. He markets Hyderabad and Telangana by highlighting the strong points over the competitors like Bengaluru and Mumbai.
The deal of the latest investment of Rs. 1,000 crore by global garments maker, Kitex Garments Ltd of Kerala, was sealed literally in flat eight hours with the Telangana Government sending a chartered plane to fetch the management to Hyderabad, thanks to the political acumen demonstrated by KTR. Kitex Garments will set up a unit in Warangal creating 4,000 jobs.
Telangana has an inherent advantage that KCR provides the umbrella-level leadership covering all aspects of the State, including administration, law and order, rural development, irrigation, welfare. KTR takes a focused approach on urban development, industry, Information Technology, investments, and other allied sectors, thus complementing the efforts of the Chief Minister.
A slew of development activities have actually changed the façade of Hyderabad. However, the Minister always says that there is a lot to be done and is being done to make Hyderabad a global city. It was after KTR became the Municipal Administration Minister in 2016 that the Metro project, which had been stuck in its tracks till then, gained momentum and the phase-1 was launched in December 2017.
The Strategic Road Development Project (SRDP) which has changed the commute patterns with over 10 flyovers, five underpasses, one cable-stayed bridge (Durgam Cheruvu), construction of missing link roads for easing the traffic congestion, Comprehensive Road Maintenance Programme (CRMP), enhancing the green cover of the city are just part of his ideas that were translated into actions.
The rejuvenation of the historic Tank Bund to bring its past glory back is one of the most remarkable achievements KTR has thought through. It has transformed the look and feel of the place in itself with its exotic streetscape dotted with Victorian style of lighting and beautifully paved sidewalks on either side and well-manicured and lush green cover on one side.
Under the aegis of KTR as Minister for IT, the IT exports literally notched up by more than 250 per cent. The IT exports in India’s youngest state grew to Rs 1.45 lakh crore in 2020-21 from Rs 57,000 crore in 2013-14. The number of IT/ITES jobs doubled to 6.28 lakhs in 2020-21 from 3.23 lakhs in 2013-14.
India’s largest Medical Devices Park is coming up in Hyderabad with more than 35 companies evincing interest in investing there to establish manufacturing/ R&D units. Similarly, the Hyderabad Pharma City – pharmaceutical industrial park – is another major initiative of KTR. The Pharma City is positioned as the world’s largest spread in 19,000 acres with an expected investment of about USD 10 billion, generating employment to over 5.60 lakh people.
Almost all visiting dignitaries like ambassadors, heads of companies, global corporations and world leaders meet KTR on a regular basis and he explains to them the potential of Telangana and presents the State with his suave communication skills by highlighting practically everything – from availability of land to connectivity – physical and virtual; from uninterrupted electricity to enormous talent pool.
Espousing the cause of startups, KTR has ideated, innovated and incorporated the T-Hub in the startup ecosystem. Similar project was replicated in T-Works, exclusively for electronics, and had several initiatives like T-Sat (satellite channel for education), TASK (Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge), RICH (Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad) and many others.
KTR has a very special talent of being a public speaker and it became fully evident when he moderated a talk show with Ivanka Trump (daughter of the then US President Donald Trump), Cherry Blair (wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair) and others at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit-2017. KTR’s spontaneity and eloquence reached their crescendo at this show.
It’s not just the urbane face that he represents, for KTR has never forgotten his moorings. He represents a rural constituency, Sircilla. The Minister has personal interest in resolving the crisis of handloom weavers of Sircilla. He made sure that the weavers were relieved of their distress by getting the Government to buy the cloth made by them for school uniforms, Bathukamma Sarees, and many others. The call to observe every Monday in a week as Handloom Monday continues even today and is a big hit with all in the Government ecosystem. His contribution to the development of the sleepy town of Sircilla is remarkable, for he practically brought in vibrancy to it with multi-pronged development programmes.
It was KTR who carried out the massive drinking water scheme that got tap connections to every household in Telangana. The Mission Bhageeratha scheme was designed in such a manner that the ducts created for pumping drinking water were parallelly used for laying optical fiber line as part of Telangana Fiber Grid project to connect all homes with convergence internet facility.
While he means business, KTR has never set aside the humane side of his persona. His initiative, #GiftASmile, has turned out to be a runaway hit with many people drawing his attention through social media, especially Twitter, seeking help. The Minister too responds positively and ensures the help is delivered. Some requests are met from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF) and many others through #GiftASmile. When Covid struck in 2020, over 100 ambulances were given by many philanthropists and elected representatives, following a call given by the Minister. This surely is a record of sorts.
Typical of a rounded personality that he is, KTR has ideated and implemented multiple programmes to benefit the whole gamut of people of Telangana, including residents, investors, tourists, and migrants.
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