Incubators and accelerators are a lifeline for most new start-ups. Their support and guidance help entrepreneurs sustain and succeed in the ecosystem.
An incubator’s role in a start-up’s life is crucial given the services the former provides, including training the office staff and arranging office space for the latter.
A number of incubators have been recognized by the government of India for its ‘Startup India’ programme. While Bengaluru has always been the top choice for startups in India, Hyderabad, on the other hand, is also catching up in attracting young talent across the nation.
Hyderabad-based T-Hub runs an incubation programme for start-ups, which come up with out-of-the-box ideas and have the potential to scale. Launched on a 75,000 square feet space in November, 2015, it currently has incubated 212 start-ups through an incubation program which showcases an out of the box innovation and show potential to scale.
T-Hub follows the unique public-private partnership model, working with the government of Telangana, three of India’s premier academic institutes (IIIT-Hyderabad, ISB & NALSAR) and key private sector leaders. So, in a way, it is the meeting point of start-up, academic institution, corporate company, research work and the government.
The Telanagana government is also working T-Hub phase-II in Raidurgam which will have 3 lakh sq ft space for about 3,000 start-ups in India.
In a chat with Entrepreneur India, Srinivas Kollipara, Founder & COO at T-Hub, explained what makes T-Hub incubation centre stand out among other private incubators. He also took us through the advantages and disadvantages of different incubator models in India, based on his experience of running country's largest startup incubator.
‘Every Advantage Has Its Disadvantage’
“The government-backed incubator tends to be a not-so-profit organization, so moneymaking is not your sole drive. You can actually focus on technologies that are transformative at the core. Apart from that, you can also put start-ups to self-challenge,” clarified Kollipara.
Talking about the disadvantages, he said profit is necessarily not the focus of any government-backed incubator. Since government is investing, start-ups lose their interest mid-way as the immediate fear of monetary losses does not plague them.
“Private incubators make sure that they track the progress of start-ups in terms of growth and revenue because that’s where the money comes from. The other disadvantage is that very often it’s a professor that runs a government-backed incubator and it’s a second role that he has after his professorship. So that means the mentorship that he will give will probably not be that valuable for an entrepreneur,” he said, adding that at the end of the day entrepreneurs should be running these incubators and not an academic person.
Hyderabad is no longer known for only its Biryani and its famous Film City. With a growing number of start-ups every year, it is now ranked as one of the best hubs of entrepreneurs in our country.
Kollipara stressed that Hyderabad’s strengths can’t be ignored. It is home to world-class institutions like IIT-Hyderabad and ISB and a number of global IT and pharmaceutical companies. So he decided to start his project here.
“A certain ecosystem already existed here. Biotechnology was doing fairly well because of a bunch of pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Similarly, IT majors like Microsoft, Google and Amazon, of course, are in Hyderabad, which implies that the talent pool is here,” he said.
“All the ingredients required to form a start-up ecosystem are here with the required government support. The new government’s focus is to bring innovation to the city. So they decided to support T-hub, but without disturbing its culture of functioning independently,” he explained.
‘We Didn’t Face Too Many Issues Up Front’
Incubators in developing countries face a number of serious challenges, but Kollipara didn’t face too many issues up front.
“I will be honest and say it turned out to be very supportive, very quickly. We tied up with all the ecosystems so that we could pull in people from Bengaluru, Delhi, and Mumbai. Every company is just finding a right talent, people who are good at particular skills and have some experience. So finding these people was difficult and asking them to move to Hyderabad was even more difficult in those days,” he said.
“Initially, we believed that we could do something big as we thought the start-up ecosystem here will only benefit us. But, when we were pitching for a national-level organization there was a lot of skepticism as to how will it be possible,” he concluded.
Many global leaders like Travis Kalanick,Satya Nadella, Kanwal Rekhi and Vinod Dham who visited the T-Hub were impressed by their vision for startups. They exited the building saying that they have never seen an incubator like this anywhere in the world.