How a young IT minister is transforming Hyderabad into a global business city once again

This is not a feature on nepotism or a political opinion on KTR’s performance. It’s about how Telengana, and Hyderabad, is aiming to be a global business city built on foundation of key sectors like IT/ITeS, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.

By Abhishek Baxi

Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao (KT Rama Rao), popularly known as KTR, is the Minister of Information Technology, Government of Telangana. The 40-year old minister is the son of first and current Chief Minister of Telangana, K Chandrashekhar Rao.

But this is not a feature on nepotism or a political opinion on KTR’s performance. It’s about how Telengana, and Hyderabad, is aiming to be a global business city built on foundation of key sectors like IT/ITeS, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.

The sleeper success

Yes, there’s the delightful Hyderabadi biryani, and the lip-smacking food in the lanes next to Char Minar. Shopping in the dingy alleys of Laad Bazaar is still a delight, but Hyderabad is not just known for its glorious past and much revered culture now.

Unarguably, the credit of putting Hyderabad on the world IT map goes to Chandrababu Naidu, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh from 1995 to 2004. Unleashing a series of reforms after taking over the reins of state and emphasising the use of IT, he made Hyderabad one of the IT hubs in India earning praise from the industry and media for his public policies and approach to governance.

India Today called him the ‘IT Indian of the Millennium’ while Economic Times awarded him as the ‘Business Person of the Year’ and Time magazine awarded him as ‘South Asian of the Year'.

Naidu coined the slogan ‘Bye bye Bangalore, hello Hyderabad’ to counter Bangalore’s rise as Silicon Valley of India while struggling with infrastructure issues and attracted foreign investment especially in key sectors such as information technology, biotechnology, healthcare, and various outsourcing services". Microsoft’s India Development Center, for example, was the company’s biggest development center outside its global headquarters in Seattle.

By the end of financial year 2003-04, software exports from Hyderabad reached one billion dollars and it became the fourth largest exporting city in the country.

Politician by chance

Away from his father’s political indulgence, KTR had the usual academic and career ambitions. He secured two postgraduate degrees – M.Sc in Biotechnology from the University of Pune and an MBA in Marketing & e-Commerce from City University of New York (CUNY). While on his stint as an IT professional in the US, a new role mandated him to come back to India in 2004.

And that turned out to be the turning point in KTR’s political career. In 2006, K Chandrasekhar Rao resigned from the UPA giving away his Lok Sabha seat for the cause of a separate state of Telangana. KTR resigned from his job to join the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and actively participated in the Telangana movement playing a stellar role in ensuring that the issue was represented well at the national level and mobilised people on the ground to protest and pressurise the Government of India to pass the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.

In a short span, KTR emerged as one of the most popular leaders in South India and is fondly called the Young Tiger of Telangana by his followers. He was also awarded the Most Inspirational Icon of the Year 2015 by CNN-IBN.

The grand ambition

A progressive and disruptive young thinker, KTR’s vision is to make Hyderabad a global city and Telangana the most sought after investment destination in the country. In Hyderabad alone, over 320,000 people directly working in the IT/ITES sector, and with an output of US$74 billion, Hyderabad is the fifth-largest contributor to India's overall gross domestic product.

He’s focused on making Hyderabad a fully WiFi-enabled city, and building Hyderabad into one of the best cities in the world for startups and entrepreneurship activities. Under his leadership, Hyderabad is now home to the largest start-up incubator in the country – T-Hub. A 70,000 square feet facility constructed with an investment of Rs 40 crore in the first phase, the T-Hub can house up to 300 start-ups and provide a futuristic workspace for up to 800 people at once.

“All one needs is a great idea. Walk in with an idea and walk out with a product." – KT Rama Rao

The next wave

And the vision is reaping fruits now. Hyderabad is once again seeing significant interest from home-grown innovators and global corporates.

Last year, KTR led an IT department delegation on a two-week tour to the US with the agenda of discussing and reaching partnerships with corporate giants on various areas of collaboration with the Government of Telangana. He met industry leaders like John Chambers of Cisco, Mark Hurd of Oracle, and John Veihmeyer, of KPMG. He also met Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, and Amazon top brass who assured their continued support to the State’s initiatives in the IT space.

Last year, Google announced that it would set up its biggest development centre outside the US in Hyderabad, with an outlay of Rs 1,000 crore and Amazon announced that it would set up its second Fulfilment Centre in the state that is expected to be larger than the existing one. Uber too announced plans to set up its first Center of Excellence in Asia and invest over US $50 million in Hyderabad, its biggest investment outside the US. The Abu Dhabi-based LuLu Group announced investing Rs 2,500 crore in Telangana’s FMCG domain for 2015-16.

Closer home, Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka met with KTR during his visit to T-Hub and the company announced that it was going to expand its Pocharam campus to double the capacity to 25,000 employees as compared to 12,000 employees, making it Infosys’ biggest campus.

In an incredible testimony of the government’s single window clearance mechanism for mega investors, more than 1,000 organisations were given clearance between July and August 2015, paving the way for flow of investments worth Rs 25,000 crore and creation of 70,000 new jobs.

(Also Read: Apple opened its development office in Hyderabad: Here’s why)

According to Narsi Reddy, Co-founder & Managing Director of Smartron, one of the exciting product startups India born in Hyderabad,

“Shri K T Rama Rao is a young and dynamic leader and has transformed the business environment of Telangana to a very business friendly state. We have seen the technology and IT industry consolidating in the last year plus under his dynamic leadership. The IT Policy of the Govt. of Telangana has been one of the most unique, created with a clear understanding of what the business entities require to operate with quick turnaround times. This in turn is sure to attract newer investments and is sure to take this business friendly state to the next level.”

Work in progress

Another brainchild of KTR, the Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK) has enabled around 40,000 out of the 75,000 engineering graduates turn readily employable for industry during 2015-16. According to KTR, TASK should be mandated to create a workforce of 100,000 by the year 2022 creating a sustainable ecosystem of job creation.

With KTR as the first IT Minister of the state, the IT sector has recorded huge exports of Rs 68,258 crore through 1,300 IT units, including 500 global companies, which shows 16 per cent growth.

Yet, despite successfully attracting several marquee investors, KTR Is disappointed with its not-so-pleasing 16th rank in the World Bank's ease-of-doing business index (Andhra Pradesh managed to grab the second rank). “We hope to emerge among the top three Indian states in ease of doing business,” he said.

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