The Startup State

The global start-up buzz to fuel innovation-led future has got world economies putting onus on technology, talent, infrastructure, policy, and capital. The third largest start-up ecosystem – India (where technology impact is now getting visible on existing businesses like education) too has its line of sight clear though internally there are technology clusters like Hyderabad looking to outshine Bengaluru.

Telangana – the youngest Indian state has been basking under the glory of several start-up activities and
the rise of multinational corporations in the state. The state’s gigantic start-up incubation centre T-Hub boasts of facilities and space given to entrepreneurs to nurture their companies under the vigilance of government support. In its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy Framework that was released in April this year, the government spotlights its efforts to boost entrepreneurship in the state. It has planned initiatives such as, first, to develop 10 lakh sq. ft of space with inputs from private sector for startups and entrepreneurial activities in five years; second, to raise Rs 2,000 crore from foreign financial institutions and allocate it towards entrepreneurship and innovation; and third, to offer incubation and mentorship to 5,000 startups in the next five years.

“Telangana is the newest state in the country and we take a lot of pride in calling ourselves the start-up state. We have come up with the start-up policy, innovation policy and created the largest technology incubator in the country called the T-Hub and we are continuously trying to bring a very comprehensive
ecosystem for the start-ups in a very meticulous way,” says Jayesh Ranjan, Secretary, Information & Communications Technology, Government of Telangana. While Ranjan admits to the fact that Bengaluru has an upper hand because of the legacy in the start-up and IT space over other cities including Hyderabad, he is confident of the ‘City of Nizams’ to soon storm to the top. “The challenge that we are mounting from Hyderabad is very strong and the city has become the go-to destination for all technology companies. Four of the five most valuable companies of the world (Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook) have their largest presence in Hyderabad outside the U.S, which is a unique distinction. The ecosystem with a large number of academic institutions and the venture capital community is keenly looking at companies based out of Hyderabad. Added to that the kind of government support we provide is coming together in a very seamless fashion,” claims Ranjan. Hyderabad is also the home to other foreign companies like Deloitte, Cognizant, Oracle etc., in India.

Start-ups in Hyderabad are allowed for incubation at T-Hub at almost free of cost even as the government is open to avail products developed by startups. “We have taken a very bold
decision that if the product or service that the start-ups offer, is of relevance to the government, we are ready to become their first customer,” adds Ranjan.

Ready to Explode

The smartphone revolution has disrupted everything around us. While some sectors took off in last few years, others are lined up on the runway such as education and blue-collar job market. Despite education being integral to mankind, the sector in India is taking its own time to be impacted by technology the way retail, travel or recently food or finance has been. Edtech, today is largely what e-retail was in 2011 where investments are relatively far and few between though few mid stage ticket deals were struck
of late. $75 million raised by learning app BYJU’S in March this year from Sequoia India and Sofina
lead the pack.

“Even though edutech is not a new segment, technology and Internet data is yet to make its real intervention in the education space. Students are slowly warming up to the idea of learning online. But focus has to be on education and technology as an enabler to make a big impact,” says Byju Raveendran, Founder and CEO, Byju’s.

Raveendran however is critical of digital expansion in India to offer seamless experience to students anywhere. “Online infrastructure is still at its early stageif you go out of metros. You got to have a hybrid model where students can consume most of the data offline with online being just for reports and assessments.”

When it comes to blue-collar job space, the market size is of at least 220 million job seekers currently that will hit 400-million mark in next five years. “We have just reached seven million job seekers. We are just scratching the surface. So, more smartphoneenabled job seekers are looking for jobs online,” says Vir Kashyap, Chief Operating Officer, Babajob. com. The blue-collar job marketplace has small and medium businessesas 60 percent of its customers.

(This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (September 2016 Issue)

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