Hyd startups to join unicorn race in a year or two: T-Hub new CEO

Srinivas Rao Mahankali
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Srinivas Rao Mahankali

Highlights

Start-ups associated with the incubator raised about `2,269 cr in funding

India's leading innovation ecosystem enabler Technology Hub (T-Hub) has nurtured around 2,000 start-ups during the last six years. Tata Sons Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata had inaugurated the phase-1 building in September 2015. As the phase-2 building is almost ready to launch, it is eagerly waiting for an ideal chief guest to open the new building. "Phase-1 has built a robust innovation ecosystem in Hyderabad. We have seen a rise in the number of startups from 400 then to about 2,000 now. Phase-2 will further boost this growth. We are looking forward to collaborate with globally strong ecosystem enablers in the future," Srinivas Rao Mahankali (MSR), who recently took charge as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of T-Hub tells Bizz Buzz

When will the second phase of T-Hub be launched officially? What are the special features and infrastructural facilities available for the startups at the new building?

T-Hub is expected to launch phase-2, by early next year. T-Hub is a unique initiative in the country, and it has been fostering innovation in multiple ecosystems, not just for startups. There are multiple stakeholders involved including the Telangana Government, academia, research, and industry.

Phase-2 of T-Hub will still represent the innovation ecosystem as a microcosm. In addition to startups, it will also house corporations, investors, and other ecosystem enablers. It will be a centre for startup innovation, corporate innovation, and ecosystem innovation in the second phase. All these are crucial for creating demand.

What are your plans to take T-Hub to the next level? Could you share your vision?

I will be working towards ensuring a strong innovation ecosystem with high quality outcomes – more startups, significantly more funding raised, higher valuations, more jobs created, and building scale through community engagement to ensure we meet our aspirations of making Telangana a leader in innovation.

T-Hub's mission is enabling and empowering an ecosystem hungry for innovation. It is creating impact for startups and other innovation ecosystem stakeholders. Since 2015, it has provided over 1,800 national and global startups with access to better talent, technology, mentors, customers, corporates, investors and government agencies.

It has elevated innovation for leading national and international corporations, transforming their business models for better. It is working in collaboration with innovation partners and enablers across the world. It is building a future-ready innovation ecosystem.

How much investments were raised by the startups incubated at T-Hub so far?

T-Hub has enabled startups to continue to raise significant amounts of funding during these challenging times. Till date, the startups like Zenoti, MyGate, WhistleDrive, Outplay, DrinkPrime and AdOnMo have raised more than Rs 2,269 crore funding from various programmes.

T-Hub has been at the forefront of building capacity across government, incubators, and academic institutions to drive innovation and elevate capabilities across the ecosystem.

Which startups are gaining traction from the domestic as well as global investors?

In the present scenario, the startups from sectors like healthcare, edutech, fintech, software as a service (SaaS), logistics, Internet of things (IoT), machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, consumer tech and cleantech are seeing significant traction from domestic as well as global investors.

How about angel investments at T-Hub? What are the reasons for lesser angel investing in Hyderabad when compared to other major cities in India?

Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai had a head start over Hyderabad, but Hyderabad is now making significant strides ahead. Concentrating on angel investments, we have a curated programme called T-Angel. This programme helps in making startups investment ready while educating high net worth individuals (HNIs) to explore angel investment.

We are currently running the third cohort of this programme and have successfully closed the first and second cohorts. This programme discovers, and nurtures high-potential tech startups and helps them in their funding journey. In the second cohort, T-Hub is being supported by angel investors who will invest Rs 50 lakh in each of the qualified startups.

Let us know if any startups in Hyderabad are close to achieving unicorn status?

Hyderabad is becoming the address for new startups in the country today. Unicorns will emerge from here in the coming years. One or two of our startups are close to receiving unicorn status in about 12-24 months. We are also seeing major traction from electric vehicle (EV) and healthcare sectors that are expected to grow as unicorns.

Are there any tie ups with national or international organisations in the pipeline?

T-Hub helped over 300 Indian startups and 460 international startups scale globally through various market access programmes and 18 international interventions in partnership with global ecosystem players across 42 countries. We have been actively running programmes for both Indian and international startups.

The recent announcement about T-Hub's partnership with US-based non-profit organisation Redberri Earth Foundation under T-Bridge initiative is a testament of the same. We will continue this momentum going forward as well.

Could you throw some light on the investments raised by the startups through initiatives like Funding Desk, T-Angel and T-Fund? Also, tell us if you are planning similar initiatives to attract funding?

The first cohort of startups from T-Angel programme received strong support in terms of refining their business model and investor pitches.

This enabled selected startups with innovative solutions to raise funds, despite the ongoing pandemic, from key investors like TechStars, Lets Venture, and Phoenix Business Solutions.

The first cohort programme not only helped them with the investor connections, but the startups have also raised over Rs10-crore funds by the end of the programme. The startups from the second cohort of the programme collectively raised Rs 4 crore from five investors based in India and the US.

We will be actively focusing on the funding aspect to overcome the lag the State has been facing. A funding desk is being built at T-Hub, which is working to help curated startups apply for grants and make pitches to selected investors for funding.

Additionally, T-Fund will be operationalising this year-end which will be given to the startups from various sectors.

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