Hyderabad: Clarity of thought and the ability to drive home a point have been the hallmark of IT and Industries Minister KT Rama Rao, which he has displayed on numerous occasions in the past.
On Thursday, the Minister was in his element again in an interview with a television channel in Davos, when he laid out the roadmap chalked out by Telangana on how it intended to harness the strong potential it has in innovation and technology.
The Minister spoke about the various initiatives it has rolled out — T-Hub, Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK) and Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH) — to promote startups and technology and to tap talent. He also outlined how upcoming projects such as Image Towers, Telangana State Innovation Cell (TSIC) and T-works will catapult the State into a much higher orbit in the tech world.
“When we started the journey in 2014, there were just 200 startups in Hyderabad. The city now has more than 2,000 after we launched T-Hub, which is the country’s largest technology incubator,” Rama Rao said in an interview with CNBC TV18 on the sidelines of the 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“The most beautiful thing is that unlike any other city in India or possibly across the world, we have a unique ecosystem with large scientific labs, such as CCMB and Icrisat, working with the government. As far as plans to move forward are concerned, I am upbeat about TSIC, which is a concept to promote social and rural innovation,” he said. He pointed out that Telangana was the only State to have a designated Chief Innovation Officer who can inspire more local youth to venture into the field of technology.
Stating that the second phase of T-Hub, to be launched soon, would be the world’s largest incubator, Rama Rao said the facility would be spread over 4,00,000 sqft, and seat about 4,000 startups and accelerators. “The next big thing to happen will be Image Tower, which will come up in 2021, besides TSIC. The State government has also rolled out RICH where industry and academia work together on applied research with goals that are relevant to societal needs,” he said.
Asked about how the State intended to push technology and innovation into Tiers 2 and 3 cities, the Minister, in a candid reply, said: “I believe that the smaller town guys actually have more fire in them. I do believe that but for lack of a platform or opportunity to showcase their skills, they are equally capable if not more than the people in metros”.
Elaborating on the government’s plans in this direction, he said TSIC plays a major role in this initiative by actively engaging with Intermediate and degree students across the State. He cited ‘Intintiki Innovator’, a recent initiative launched by the government to encourage schoolchildren. “We have been encouraging kids to come out with their own home-grown innovations and facilitate showcasing of their ideas. In fact, the government funded some of them to scale up their innovations. Once we find a raw spark somewhere, we pick them up and bring them to T-Hub, help them scale up and even find access to funding,” he said.
On TASK, Rama Rao said the facility works with industry and educational institutions to make sure there is alignment of industry needs and that “our children are job-ready when they come out”. “A more interesting initiative is a model we are working on where students of engineering and other professional courses start working in the industry towards the end of their course. This helps the youngsters get exposure to the real world. From the industry perspective, companies get to cherry-pick the best talent,” he said.
KTR believes in jugaad
“I am a firm believer in jugaad”, was how IT and Industries Minister KT Rama Rao responded when asked about how the Telangana government intended to tackle budgetary allocations to give a thrust to innovation and technology in the State.
“Unless you collaborate with the private sector, unless you engage with them actively, I don’t think you are going to be able to pull off all your ambitions,” the Minister said in an interview with a news channel on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos.
Giving the example of Image Towers coming up in Hyderabad, Rama Rao said the Rs 1,200-crore project was taken up under the PPP mode. “The private sector is helping us in the construction of the towers, while the government gave the land,” he said, adding that the same method was adopted in the case of RICH too.
“The most important lesson I have learnt in the last five years is that once you build infrastructure, the government should not poke its nose into these wonderful facilities. They should not become another sarkari daftar (government office),” he said. The State government, to prevent this, hired truly talented people from the private sector to run institutions such as T-Hub and TSIC. “We let them run the show,” he added.