Startups flourishing in Telangana, thanks to govt resolve
The most remarkable feature of Telangana’s triumphant startup ecosystem is that it is fuelled by an empowering collaboration between the government and innovators
EVER since the formation of the State in 2014, Telangana has taken monumental strides and has created a remarkable space for itself in national and international discourses. The State's startup ecosystem, catalysed by a motivated and involved government, has mirrored the same glorious trajectory and sprung up exemplary developments, synergising all possible actors for commendable innovation and transformations. From the real estate to pharmaceuticals and from gender equity to information technology, Telangana has achieved significant milestones and looks at splendid futures to realize. A look at this exceptional success story only bolsters belief in the sturdiness of this innovation ecosystem and strengthens optimism for foreseeable accomplishments.
The most remarkable feature of Telangana's triumphant startup ecosystem is that it is fuelled by an empowering collaboration between the government and innovators. The State government has deployed and is unveiling a host of applaudable policies, conducive for the sustenance and flourishing of startups and businesses. In February 2021, Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar launched the Telangana Social Startup Network (TSSN), which aims to set up 5,000 startups in the next five years, with particular focus on the promotion of social startups. In the same month, the government invited applications from State-based startups to avail incentives such as performance grant, patent expenditure reimbursement, SGST (State goods and services tax) reimbursement and recruitment assistance, among others. With a reliance on cooperation between stakeholders and extending monetary and institutional support to entrepreneurs, the Telangana government has led by example.
The State's top-notch software sector acts as a prominent and significant growth driver. The tremendous rise of Hyderabad's IT sector, aided by government support, has enabled it to house all noteworthy tech giants and provide limitless employment opportunities to countless people.
As noted publications report, in 2020, despite the pandemic, Telangana's IT sector registered a superlative growth rate of 18 per cent year-on-year, while the national average stood at 8.09 per cent. In a similar vein, the State witnessed a growth rate of 7.8 per cent in the IT employment, while the national average stood at 4.59 per cent. All of this is again enabled by proactive government which incentivises the sector by giving refunds to companies for participation in exhibitions, reductions of stamp duty, transfer duty and registration fees, telephone and internet bills, besides providing subsidy and access to renewable energy. Information Technology offers us a foundation to tide over modern challenges and the State of Telangana is certainly harvesting the most it has to offer.
The real estate sector tells another tale of resilience in face of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first quarter of 2021, as per JLL, Hyderabad led institutional investments in real estate in the country with an astounding 42 per cent share and capital flows of $384 million or Rs 2,860 crores. Hyderabad has pioneered real estate innovation with the government introducing Telangana State Building Permission Approval and Self-Certification System (TS-bPASS), creating and fostering an environment with ease of doing business. Single window clearances are on the way as the State finds more ways to consolidate and promote growth. With such emphasis on real estate, Telangana has offered greater opportunities for wealth and well-being to its people and generated ample employment opportunities.
The pharmaceutical industry finds a robust ground in the State. As LiveMint reports, the government of Telangana, in 2019, visioned creating a $100 billion industry in the sector over the decade and is establishing the Hyderabad Pharma City, the world's largest pharmaceuticals industrial park, expected to employ 560,000 people and attract investment worth billions of dollars. Genome Valley 2.0, a medical devices park is also being developed.
The State currently boasts of having one of the largest life sciences sectors in Asia, accounting for 35-40 per cent of the national pharma production. The State, thus, is an adept contributor to the medical progress of the country and the research and development it has enabled is a key asset to the national and the global economies.
Gender parity is another domain Telangana excels in. The State has had a record of being the home ground of vocal and inspiring women entrepreneurs. Ever since its early years, the State government had planned several measures to support women entrepreneurs.
This eventually led to the establishment of WE-Hub, the country's only startup incubator for women. With the assistance of WE-Hub, several women-led startups such as Brunswick, launched by Srilaxmi Ambati and Lesperanzau launched by Leburi Sarada, accomplished major successes. Ever since its inception in 2018, not only has WE-Hub engaged over 3,000 women entrepreneurs but tied up with national and international actors for major programmes. These efforts acknowledge the multifaceted nature of economic development and aim for social equity among genders.
Hyderabad is a prominent seat for quality education and research, hosting two central universities and six State universities and boasts of one of the largest number of students seeking technical education in India. As noted by several publications, Hyderabad hosts centres for research in pharma, biotech and defence-related science and technology, such as Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology. Apart from these, the city houses the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad as well as the Indian School of Business (ISB). The Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH), led by Ajit Rangnekar brings together institutions, academia and industry along with venture capitalists, angel investors and incubators and provides funding to research and innovation projects and incubation, promotion and equipment support among other boosts to startups.
Telangana's development story breaches the urban-rural divide as the startup promotion has penetrated the non-urban parts of the State as well. WE-Hub, for instance, provided support to women entrepreneurs in this regard, including setting up machinery for making gold ornaments by providing credit linkages to help women innovators from rural and tribal regions of the State. The Telangana State Innovation Cell (TSIC) launched the 'Intinta Innovator' programme to support rural innovation, which felicitated and supported grassroots innovators like Vishwaja Reddy from Karimnagar who started a company HiCode that makes napkin incinerators and napkin vending machines. Telangana has upped the ante in bridging disparities between urban and rural constituencies with potent innovation ushering in numerous livelihood opportunities.
T-Hub, Telangana government's startup support system, as an innovation intermediary and business incubator has scaled remarkable heights and helped over 1,120 startups in the State. It is also a model instance of government-academia-industry collaboration as it is partnership between the State government, the private sector and three academic centres— the International Institute of Information Technology, the Indian School of Business and the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research. On the whole, the space for mentoring and enabling startups is immense.
There are challenges the State stares at and achievements it anticipates. As Dr Ramachandra Reddy Yeluri, MD, Ven Life Sciences Private Ltd opines in an interview with a noted daily, "The government needs to incentivise capital markets to promote innovation, introduce policies to incubate high-potential startups, and promote academia-industry collaboration. Reducing the Indian manufacturing industry's dependence on imports will be another crucial step in this regard." Similarly, greater infrastructural development needs to be carried out in parts of the State other than Hyderabad to embolden the ecosystem Telangana seeks to create. While the startup world of Hyderabad has dealt with the Covid-19 crisis relatively well, the slowdowns and setbacks it has caused need to be overcome.
However, with the State government's consistent commitment towards creating a resilient startup ecosystem, innovation is likely to continue. Such measures are often all-encompassing, cutting across gendered and urban-rural divides.
With comprehensive, wide-reaching programmes, Telangana is concocting the recipe for long term success and it is safe to envision a resplendent future for the State. The booms are eagerly awaited, and with Telangana's track-record, they most certainly will arrive.
(The author is Founder, Upsurge Global, and Senior Advisor, Telangana State Innovation Council)