Today, the one-year-old state of Telangana in South India took a big step towards becoming the next great tech startup hub of the country. Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of industrial conglomerate Tata Sons, inaugurated the T-Hub, touted as India’s biggest incubator for startups.
But first, a bit of Indian history. After independence from British rule in 1947, the colonial provinces and remaining kingdoms were reorganized into states linguistically. One of these was the state of Andhra Pradesh formed by joining the Nizam of Hyderabad’s kingdom with Andhra state, both of which are predominantly Telugu-speaking regions.
But the people of the former Hyderabad state had a different culture and felt they were numerically at a political disadvantage in the new Andhra Pradesh. They agitated for a separate state of Telangana, which finally got formed last year. Hyderabad will be the joint capital of both states for a period of 10 years, after which it will be the capital of Telangana.
A house for VCs, startups, and accelerators
It is in a suburb of Hyderabad that the first phase of T-Hub – a 70,000-square-foot space for startups, built at a cost of INR 400 million (US$6 million) – was inaugurated today. The second phase will cover another 300,000 sq ft and cost INR 1.5 billion (US$23 million). The Telangana government is looking to build up T-Hub in public-private partnership mode. The Indian School of Business (ISB) and the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) will mentor the startups.
Apart from startups, the T-Hub will house VCs, accelerators, and mentors. “T-Hub is open for everybody,” declared Telangana’s IT minister, K.T. Rama Rao, addressing concerns of exclusion from entrepreneurs that hailed from the split state of Andhra Pradesh. “This is not for Telangana techies alone but to attract talent from across the country,” he said during a media tour of the facility.
The next Phanindra Sama
It’s an irony of sorts that Chandrababu Naidu – the man whose mission it was to make Hyderabad a tech hub to rival Bangalore, when he was chief minister of the undivided state of Andhra Pradesh – now watches the formation of T-Hub from the sidelines. The development of the so-called Cyberabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad, where Microsoft and other global IT companies have their Indian headquarters, happened under Naidu’s watch.
Today, Naidu is the chief minister of the new, truncated Andhra Pradesh, where he is again busy drumming up support for a tech ecosystem. Vizag in coastal Andhra is where Xiaomi launched its first made-in-India phone in August. Naidu is also building a new, modern state capital from scratch in rural Guntur district, which he wants modelled on Singapore. A Singaporean firm, Surbana Jurong, has made the master plan for the new city called Amaravati, which was a heavenly abode in Hindu mythology.
A coming together of myth and modernity, along with healthy competition between the two states to attract talent and investment is good news for entrepreneurs and startups. Telangana has waited a long time to come into its own, emerging from the shadow of Andhra Pradesh.
Years of violent agitation shackled Hyderabad while Bangalore in the neighboring state of Karnataka surged ahead in forming a vibrant startup ecosystem. As K.T. Rama Rao points out, one of India’s best known entrepreneurs, Phanindra Sama, the founder of RedBus, came from Nizamabad in Telangana, but chose Bangalore as the base for his startup.
The next Phanindra Sama may not have to go to Bangalore. He could rise from the T-Hub, creating jobs and economic growth for the people of Telangana.
Will Hyderabad one day outdo Bangalore as a hub for tech startups? Or will Chandrababu Naidu turn Amaravati into the next El Dorado for startups? Drop your comments below.
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