At T-Hub, the year 2021 marks six years of building an innovation ecosystem like no other. Six years of overcoming unique challenges, hitting key milestones and gaining recognition as an ecosystem enabler and innovation hub. In our experience, it’s not enough to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to drive growth. If innovation has to be sustained for the long-term, it’s critical to articulate a strategy encompassing all the stakeholders who contribute to the making of a fertile and unified innovation ecosystem. At T-Hub, we have always aspired to “build one ecosystem” that facilitates collaboration and cohesiveness.
The Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) 2021 by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network has consistently placed Telangana among the top and emerging ecosystems in the world. Further, a recent White Paper has acknowledged Hyderabad as the emerging startup hub in India, striving to “strengthen its current position as the nation’s most-favoured destination for startups”.
Such recognition is a testament to Telangana’s flourishing innovation economy and T-Hub’s evolution from being an incubator for the startup ecosystem to becoming the country’s foremost innovation hub. Over the years, T-Hub has offered a holistic support mechanism for the entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating impact through investments, capacity building, policy infrastructure and institutionalised initiatives.
We believe our success lies in the inspiring stories that empower our ecosystem. Such narratives showcase the collaborative and synergistic nature of relationships between key stakeholders. On our anniversary month, we acknowledge six such diverse and impactful T-Hub stories. Stories like these enable us to reinforce our commitment to build ‘one ecosystem’. This is also the theme of our sixth anniversary, where we reaffirm our pledge to work with all our stakeholders, in Telangana, India, and across the world, to build an ecosystem nurturing entrepreneurship and innovation.
#1 When corporates and startups collaborate as ‘one’ to fuel innovation
(United Technologies Corporation’s* Otis Innovation Challenge for startups)
T-Hub’s Corporate Innovation Team has launched several successful programs. These have brought together corporates and startups to forge a strategic alliance to fuel innovation. In 2018, American tech conglomerate United Technologies*’ Otis Elevator co partnered with T-Hub to launch the Otis Innovation Challenge. The program invited startups to contribute smart and scalable tech-led solutions to improve the efficiency and utilisation of Otis products (elevators, escalators, travellators). The global competition called for entries in cutting-edge technologies such as cameras, sensors, real-time traffic, transit and weather data, among others, to offer unique solutions for specific problems.
This is a fine example of how an established corporate partnered with nimble startups to find distinct, affordable and advanced DeepTech solutions employing general-purpose computing, sensing, and connectivity hardware. Collaborations like these have helped 600+ Corporate giants gain exposure to an ever-changing and disruptive innovation ecosystem with 40+ innovation programs, enabling them to stay ahead in the corporate innovation game and serve their consumers better. On the other hand, the shortlisted startups got a unique opportunity to showcase their capabilities by developing proof of concepts (PoCs) and prioritising the solution at the Otis facility in Hyderabad. Each startup also received funding up to USD10K and showcased its PoC to key UTC executives on ‘Demo Day’. T-Hub gave startups the ideal platform to access its deep network of mentors, industry experts, investors and service providers, among other resources.
“The startups that we met at T-Hub are very passionate about what they are doing, very Creative and looking for industry partners like ourselves. It’s a great collaboration when it comes to digital technology”
– Al Saidi, VP Systems & Controls Engineering CCS & Otis, Raytheon Technologies
#2 When startups join hands with the government
(Marut Drones collaborates with the Telangana State Government)
Forward thinking governments like Telangana are frequently looking for innovative ways to leverage technology as they plan for the future of the country. T-Hub has ensured the technological gaps the government faces are efficiently solved by collaboration with startups and has conducted 10 government workshops in association with TSIC to sensitise them about the nature of the startup ecosystem . One such successful collabooration betwen the government and a startup has been with Marut Drones. Since its inception in 2019, this Hyderabad-based T-Hub startup has solved complex problems by applying data analytics, IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning to the fledgling drone industry in India. Its automated AI platform has been used for mosquito eradication to issue critical alerts on diseases such as malaria and dengue. Its technological innovations have identified breeding grounds for mosquitoes, saving local municipal authorities time, effort and money.
The growing popularity of drones in Telangana’s municipalities resulted in a partnership between Marut Drones and the Government of Telangana. The startup’s drone technology was also deployed during the pandemic for applications such as disinfection and sanitisation, movement tracking, thermal analysis, medical delivery of critical supplies, and surveillance of quarantined areas. Marut Drones also partnered with the Telangana government to start a drone training academy to create a talent pool for the larger drone ecosystem.
Recently, the Telangana government with Marut Drones to launch a drone-based afforestation project called ‘Hara Bahara’. An aerial seeding solution, ‘Seedcopter’, was deployed by the startup to drop seed balls—a mix of cow dung and fertilizers—on barren land to convert them into lush forests.
This is a classic example of how a T-Hub startup supports the government to build a scalable, sustainable development program by leveraging cutting-edge technologies. Simultaneously, the startup receives support from the government to continue on its innovation journey.
“Telangana state has focused on developing one strong innovation ecosystem across all citizens and entities. T-Hub has played a core, leading role in this, by creating new creative forms of collaboration among stakeholders which has helped Innovators to make a faster impact.”
Ajit Rangnekar, Director General, Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad
#3 When T-Hub startups flourish in a ‘one ecosystem’
(T-Hub startups lead the way in funding)
Since its inception in 2015, T-Hub has worked to accelerate the pace of investments and funding. T-Hub has created a robust funding mechanism, impacting 1,800 startups across the value chain. One of its primary initiatives includes the launch of T-Fund in July 2021 to fund promising startups. Further, the Government of Telangana’s Innovation Policy provides incentives for more than 50 startups. The creation of a Funding Desk at T-Hub aims to assist curated startups apply for grants and pitch to potential investors. T-Hub also launched the Soonicorn Club to support local soonicorns and minicorns to scale and meet their funding requirements.
Hyderabad and Bellevue-based T-Hub startup Zenoti joined the Unicorn league in December 2020 in terms of valuation when it raised USD160 million as part of its Series D round. In June 2021, this enterprise cloud platform for the beauty, wellness and fitness industry raised an additional USD80 million as an extension to its Series D funding round, taking its valuation to almost USD1.5 billion.
The success of Telangana startup Zenoti reflects how T-Hub has been a catalyst in facilitating significant funding for the startup ecosystem, even during the pandemic. It is also a testimonial of how T-Hub has enabled investors to accelerate deal flows at a global level, providing them with a curated investment advisory and connecting them with hot investment opportunities. Startups from across the spectrum received ₹ 2,269 funding amid these challenging times. T-Hub startups, such as MyGate, WhistleDrive and OutPlay, raised significant funding during this period. T-Hub also co-hosted Angel Investments Masterclasses, a series of Masterclasses conducted across Telangana to sensitise over 380 potential angel investors to look at investing in startups as a lucrative asset class. We will discuss this further in the next section.
“T-Hub has been an “inspiration center” in enabling to build world-class startups. The ecosystem created by T-Hub with Founders, Investors, Media access, Corporates, and Government has been fostering rapid growth”
Sunil Kumar Maddikatla, Founder & CEO, BlueSemi R&D Pvt. Ltd.
#4 When T-Hub and the academia join as ‘one’
(T-Hub partners with academic institutions to impact 18,000+ student entrepreneurs)
T-Hub strongly believes the journey of innovation and entrepreneurship should begin in India’s classrooms. In May 2020, T-Hub launched a unique initiative called T-Tribe to nurture India’s budding student entrepreneurs and early-stage startups. T-Tribe offers a range of curated programs in partnership with top academic institutions and plans are underway to set up T-Tribe satellite centres to provide students access to knowledge-sharing and training sessions.
MasterClass, an entrepreneurship and pre-incubation program, supports student entrepreneurs in creating viable business models and pitching their ideas to potential investors. LaunchPad, another curated program, seeks to help college students grasp the technical aspects of entrepreneurship and handhold them as they take their idea from paper to market.
T-Tribe has been implemented in three states and has impacted 18,000+ students across 27 colleges. Through this initiative, T-Hub has created a winning formula to stimulate academia’s active participation in entrepreneurship, while providing a viable platform for student entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas to influencers in the innovation ecosystem.
#5 When mentoring unifies startups
(How T-Hub’s programs facilitate a robust mentoring ecosystem with 100 mentors as part of T-Hub)
Experience has taught us how a unified ecosystem can flourish only when all stakeholders find the right mentoring support. We offer a slew of programs, such as Lab32 (our flagship seed accelerator program) and MeitY (The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) India Digital Scale Up program, among others. These provide startups with access to mentoring from industry experts and other startups from within the T-Hub ecosystem. The value of peer learning is a crucial life experience for entrepreneurs to imbibe while navigating a complex business landscape fraught with uncertainties. Since only startup founders understand the pain points and unique challenges of fellow entrepreneurs, it creates an interdependent ecosystem that thrives on the power of shared wisdom and experiences. For instance, the founders of Bariflo Labs acknowledge the support from other startups when they participated in the T-Hub-MeitY program. The program provided a platform for Bariflo Labs to connect with startups such as Detect Technologies and Swaayatt Robots to finetune solutions and scale their startup. The startup received structured and outcome-driven guidance from industry experts to achieve its business outcomes.
Likewise, Rizel Automotive, a startup in the EV industry was able to connect with established players when it participated in the T-Hub-MeitY program. The mentoring support it received included guidance on refining its product strategy and formulating a strategy to onboard new customers.
Inspirational stories like these that have helped T-Hub demonstrate innovation is possible when startups, corporates, government, and academia join hands and receive additional support from mentors and service providers.
“Last six years, T-Hub has played an instrumental role and building one ecosystem for all that has provided that space, network and support in the journey of all the companies associated with it. It has been a pedestal where the discovery of a startup by the world has become easier and introduced startups to the who’s who of the startup ecosystem”
Sri Charan Lakkaraju, CEO, stuMagz
#6 When service providers provide a unified platform for startups
(How this T-Hub startup partnered with a service provider)
Over the years, T-Hub has created a holistic environment for startups by partnering with premium service providers to lend startups a strong entrepreneurial support infrastructure. Service providers offer critical resources such as high-speed internet connectivity, electricity and other infrastructural support to fledgling businesses to aid in their long-term sustainability. The strong value proposition offered by service providers enables startups to focus on innovation, collaboration and productivity, sans the hassle of managing the daily demands of running a business. T-Hub in turn also provides a unique platform for service providers to showcase their offerings, forge strong connections and establish them as reliable partners in the startup ecosystem.It has opened avenues for 75 such service providers to market their services to startups.
Skill Monks, a SaaS startup from the T-Hub Lab32 program’s fifth cohort. has received substantial support from T-Hub’s leading service provider partners. The company was shortlisted by Microsoft for Startups, qualifying for USD25,000 worth of services support. The startup also received USD10,000 AWS credits. According to Rameshwar Mandalli, founder, Skill Monks, such fruitful associations with service providers helped the company avoid heavy expenses on critical business aspects and focus on its growth strategy.
“T-Hub allows you to be part of a robust community and network with all the stakeholders under a single roof thereby promoting the concept of One Ecosystem. The number of programs they orchestrate and the quality of the startups associated with T-Hub has started to gain required momentum.”
Dr. Srikanth Sundararajan, General Partner, Ventureast
T-Hub’s goal is to create a conducive environment for its key stakeholders, also building Telangana’s burgeoning innovation ecosystem. We may have been pioneers in building a one-of-a-kind innovation hub. However, we don’t believe in resting on our laurels. We shall continue to strive to build a ‘one ecosystem’ that becomes a knowledge-sharing hub for stakeholders and partners. Only then would we discover new success stories to take us to our next phase of growth.