India is full of great opportunities

Interview with Jay Krishnan, CEO, T-Hub

December 15, 2017

Today, the big talk in India’s startup sector is centred around financial technology (fintech), among other ventures

Lots of foreign investors are coming on board to fund fintech ventures bolstered by Government’s measures

Large angel investors, venture capitalists and institutional capitals interested in Indian startups have opened local offices

Business friendly outlook of Narendra Modi government related to IT has boostd investor interest in India

Hyderabad based T-Hub, a public-private partnership with the Telangana government, is one of India’s largest startup incubators. It nurtures growth stage startups across healthcare, smart city and mobility, fin-tech, sustainability and social impact. Currently, there are 160 startups operating in an environment comprising of 117 mentors and 23 business support services. This has been fuelled with vibrant collaborations with the corporate sector, government bodies, educational institutions and local influencers. A quick interaction with Jay Krishnan, CEO, T-Hub, a Global Entrepreneur Summit speaker.

What are the current trends and challenges in India’s startup landscape?

Today, the big talk in India’s startup sector is centred around financial technology (fintech). Lots of investors are coming on board to fund fintech ventures and this activity has been bolstered by easy payment interfaces such as the Government of India’s Unified Payments Interface system. Meanwhile, other sectors will open up depending on Government policies, for example, when the government announces its detailed electric vehicle policy, it will spawn an entire new industry.

As for challenges, I would say that the government first needs to identify what a startup is. You cannot treat a startup at par with a manufacturing operation or a small and medium-sized enterprise, in terms of taxes and statutory compliances. Innovation, which is critical for driving growth in a country, is crushed if startups are caught up filing mandatory long-drawn government paperwork.

How do you help foreign entities to invest in startups at T-Hub or to enter the Indian market?

We connect investors with startups in a structured manner through one-on-one interactions or pitching events. A significant chunk of the capital for startups come from outside India. We have large angel investors, venture capitalists and institutional capitals interested in our startups and most of them have offices in India today.

Moreover, we have launched initiatives such as the Innovation Challenge 1.0 with Boeing Co to invite startups to create disruptive solutions in aviation. The winners will get to engage with Boeing in future partnerships. We have also tied up with Facebook to work with Indian virtual reality (VR) start-ups, and with Microsoft to offer a three month accelerator programme.

Looking ahead, we aim to not just sustain the momentum we have built, but to help global startups access India as a market. For example, we have launched an India-Israel Global Innovation Challenge inviting companies majorly from Israel’s agriculture and healthcare sectors to invest in India, while also allowing Indian startups to tap the Israeli market.

Are your initiatives in India similar to your T-Hub initiative in Silicon Valley? And what are your plans to expand in the future?

Yes, we have recently announced an initiative, the India Access Market Program (IMAP), that has brought five startups from the US, South Korea, Canada, Austria to T-Hub. These ventures are involved in market research and meeting potential clients in India. Through this programme, international clients can test the waters to see if their business model is viable in this country.
Also, at the end of next year, we will launch our larger campus, Reactor. This will allow us to organise deeper interactions with our stakeholders through our centres of excellence in emerging technologies such as blockchain, augmented and virtual reality (ARVR), among others.

What makes India a great investor destination?

India is full of challenges and opportunities. We have problems to solve in waste management, transportation, pollution, connectivity, among others. An entrepreneur sees an opportunity in the problem and applies all energy in solving it. Moreover, India is competing actively and changing the dynamics of the global economy with the combination of “jugaad” innovation and a large skill pool.

A business friendly outlook as well as the initiatives of the Narendra Modi government related to Information and Communications Technologies, Make in India, Startup India, Aadhaar (Digital Identity) and India Stack (API service) are helping as well.

What’s your message to entrepreneurs in India today?
Entrepreneurs in any country are usually regarded as the national assets. They often change the way individuals work and live, and hence can enhance the living standards of people. My advice for entrepreneurs:  

    • Have a clear plan for survival
    • Understand your specific landscape thoroughly
    • Analyse market dynamics
    • Identify relevant trends
    • Centre your business around your customer

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