‘Want to create a deep-tech innovation ecosystem in Hyderabad’: T-Hub CEO to TNM

Ravi Narayan, who took over recently, believes that having the right innovation ecosystem can change how a startup thinks and executes its plans.
‘Want to create a deep-tech innovation ecosystem in Hyderabad’: T-Hub CEO to TNM
‘Want to create a deep-tech innovation ecosystem in Hyderabad’: T-Hub CEO to TNM

After scouting for a person to head Telangana’s startup engine T-Hub for nearly four months, it appointed Ravi Narayan, former global director of Microsoft for Startups as the new CEO. Announcing the new CEO, Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, IT, E&C, govt of Telangana said that while Ravi Narayan came with an excellent academic background and entrepreneurial experience, like its previous CEO Jay Krishnan, Ravi’s value add is his vast experience of being a mentor and of building ecosystems with global exposure.

The confidence in Ravi’s gait and his interaction with the media is a testament to that experience. Since coming on board, Ravi has spent the last month meeting with all the institutions, officials and the various players in Hyderabad’s startup ecosystem. Now, Ravi knows what he’s here to do. And he has a concrete plan laid out.

When T-Hub was formed, former IT Minister KT Rama Rao had said, walk in with an idea and walk out with a product. Since then, T-Hub has evolved from working with early-stage startups to now focusing on scaling growth-stage and more mature startups. Ravi’s vision goes beyond just T-Hub. Speaking to TNM, he says that he wants to now institutionalise all that T-Hub is doing and create an innovation ecosystem in Hyderabad.

“T-Hub has taken very unconventional methods to help startups and has always been thinking like a startup itself. We talk about innovation and ecosystem here and the programs here such as International Relations, Corporate Innovation have done very well. For me, the next level is bringing all of it together and creating an ecosystem. We don't have to follow anyone's footsteps, be it in India or globally. We have to carve out our own path to create an innovation ecosystem,” Ravi says.

Ravi Narayan with the team of T-Hub

Apart from having co-founded three startups, Ravi has worked with Microsoft for Startups, where he has helped establish accelerators and co-sell programs across the world. Ravi believes that his biggest value add is that he has not only been an entrepreneur, but also an investor and a mentor to not just startups but large corporations as well. “It’s the sheer experience I bring to the table. I have the ability to take forward work that is being done here more rapidly and comprehensively. Secondly, I bring a lot of global contacts from various ecosystems. I know the VCs (venture capitalists) and other contacts and for me to take startups there is very much possible. And thirdly, having worked for the largest companies in the world, I bring a lot of credibility to the conversations going on with corporations. Also, I was an investor in the same generation when Accel, Sequoia, Helion, etc. started out. So, the network I have with these VCs across India is also very deep,” he adds. 

Creating an Innovation Ecosystem

From personal experience, Ravi believes that having the right innovation ecosystem can change how a startup functions and can help it grow by leaps and bounds, something he experienced as an entrepreneur in the US. “The fears, concerns, ignorance you have can go away. You’ll see that everyone speaks a different language, they see a problem in a different way - and you look at that and it changes how you think about things and execute,” he says, adding that there is a need for startups to collaborate and start doing a lot more together.

While T-Hub is often credited with accelerating startup and entrepreneurial activity in Hyderabad and Telangana, Ravi says that there is a lot of good work happening in pockets and these pockets now need to be connected and the various ecosystem players need to start sharing, working with others a lot more.

Ravi believes that some of the important parameters for any ecosystem such as government support, regulatory clarity, enabling landscape, global market access, are already beginning to form in Hyderabad. He has identified three major gaps that T-Hub will now work to fill.

Corporate implementation

Ravi believes that corporate partnerships will be the cornerstone to take startups to the next level. While there is already work being done through T-Hub’s corporate innovation program, Ravi wants to scale this several times further and wants to work on changing the perception of corporates in Hyderabad.

Funding for entrepreneurs

“For startups, creating a sustainable business should be the main focus. To this end, we spend a fair amount of time mentoring them to ensure they are thinking about the product right, spending time talking to customers, adopting right tech to build it and most importantly, go sell to a few customers and get them to start using it. If they can do that, it’s a great testimony for any investor to start getting excited about them. So, if startups can build a product, create a business, get customers, investment will follow,” Ravi says.

Focus on Deep Tech

Ravi believes that with IIIT-Hyderabad, IIT Hyderabad and several other research institutes doing world-class work, there is a need for exchange of technology between them and what startups are doing.

 “With Hyderabad housing several central government research institutions and some of the world’s best research institutions, how to connect the dots and make it happen is the question? That's what our next set of initiatives will be about.

A phased approach

In order to fill the gaps, Ravi is looking at a phased approach that T-Hub will take. His first plan of action is to institutionalise and scale all the programs that T-Hub is already running, with a specific focus on corporate innovation.

Once these programs are consolidated and scaled up, the second phase, Ravi says, will be to start talking about what T-Hub has done. “I don’t think we do that enough. There have been various milestones and successes. For example, a lot of work has happened in corporate innovation. The successes are something only known to corporates and us. We haven’t shared with the larger community. T-Hub has done some very unique things. I want to start sharing this with our ecosystem partners and provide them with the necessary support and enable capacity building, which only T-Hub can do,” he adds.

This second phase will also include creating a capital infrastructure that will help bring more funding avenues to startups.  

The third phase will be deepening technology and making access to deep technology better.

“I envision that this we will create one of those deep-tech ecosystems here such that any startup or corporate wanting to build a next-gen product, using next-gen technology should want to do it in Hyderabad because that's where, one will find all the different elements required to do that,” Ravi concludes.

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