While addressing a huge gathering consisting of technology and IT companies from across the globe at WCIT 2018 in February, Telangana’s IT minister KT Rama Rao appealed to companies to look beyond metros and tier 1 cities and invest in tier 2, 3 towns.
“There are millions who do not speak English. So for companies to focus on native and vernacular speakers makes a lot of business sense,” he said.
After developing Hyderabad into one of the most attractive destinations in the country for startups and tech companies, KTR’s next big target in the state is Warangal. KTR wants Warangal to be the next big tech hub after Hyderabad, on the lines of Bengaluru-Mysuru.
“Warangal has rail, air and road connectivity. It is a strong junction. We want to ensure it becomes a hub because it has 16 engineering colleges with some very good professional colleges as well. We are hoping that the educational ecosystem here would be supported by our efforts and will result in a larger ecosystem,” KTR said.
KTR is asking MNCs to set up operations in this town. Global engineering services major Cyient has already set up a campus, where it will employ around 1,000 people in phases. Tech Mahindra too, will be soon setting up a campus in Warangal and will be employing 500 IT professionals.
The state government is in advanced talks with 3-4 more tech majors to set up centres in the city and hopes to formalise talks and have them set up operations by the end of this year.
The government has also set up a regional centre of Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK) in Warangal to make children of the town job-ready. TASK is a non-profit organisation set up by the government to help students acquire industrial skills to make them employable.
This, KTR says, will create opportunities for job seekers.
However, the idea of taking technology and innovation into tier 2 towns goes beyond just Warangal. The Telangana government has identified five locations including Warangal that will be grown as tech destinations. Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Khammam and Mahabubnagar are the four other towns apart from Warangal.
The government has sanctioned Rs 25 crore in each of these towns to set up IT hubs, which will be built as plug-and-play facilities. “We will initially be inviting BPO, KPO-type companies and are hoping that product development could soon happen as well,” KTR said.
These facilities are currently under construction and will be up and running by the end of this year, KTR said. The government has signed several MoUs with companies in each of these locations. Karimnagar alone, for example, has signed 13 MoUs, ensuring that these IT hubs will be full by the time they are fully constructed.
Building on his appeal to take technology into the hinterlands, KTR inaugurated the first and the largest technology business incubation centre in a tier 2 town in Warangal in Telangana.
SR Innovation Exchange has been built by educational group SR group in the premises of its engineering college in Warangal and will be supported by Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Government of India.
Spread across one lakh square foot, SR Innovation Exchange also surpasses Telangana government’s pet project T-Hub, which is currently the largest incubation centre in the country.
In fact, SR Engineering College is one of the few colleges out of nearly 150 who applied, to win a bid to set up an incubation centre. SR Innovation Exchange will be built with a total investment of Rs 14-15 crore, of which DST has sanctioned Rs 9 crore.
“We were enthused by the energy shown by this college and their plan of how they wish to incubate and promote startups through the incubation centre. The fact that we don’t have incubation centres in tier 2 towns also played a part. Apart from the grant, DST will provide financial and networking support. There will also be seed support in tranches of Rs 10 crore, which could go upto Rs 50 crore,” said Harkesh Mittal, Head – innovation, entrepreneurship and tech commercialisation, DST.
In order to support innovation and entrepreneurship, angel networks and entrepreneurs groups are also extending their network into tier 2, 3 towns. Along with the launch of Sri Innovation Exchange, The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) also launched a Warangal chapter. It recently also launched a chapter in Nizamabad. With the support of TiE Hyderabad, TiE Warangal will promote technology entrepreneurship with a focus on the local industry.
And not just TiE, the event also saw the launch of angel network Kakatiya Angels comprising high net worth individuals (HNIs). The objective of Kakatiya Angels is to provide strategic advice, mentoring, critical contacts and investment capital to startup entrepreneurs.
“And with this kind of innovation exchange, I hope startups will make these towns their home. There are especially great opportunities in areas such as social and rural innovation and agri-tech and this could be a great platform for them and an even better location than Hyderabad,” KTR said.