He thinks out-of-the-box, speaks very eloquently, has a youth-centric focus and loves Chinese food. Here’s Telangana’s Information Technology Minister, K. Taraka Rama Rao “KTR” in an exclusive interview with Siliconeer. – @siliconeer #siliconeer #KTR #Telangana #SiliconValley #TiE #TiESV #THub #KTarakaRamaRao #RamReddy #DigitalIndia #MakeinIndia #StartupIndia #ScaleUpIndia #KTRexclusiveinterview
Siliconeer presents excerpts from an exclusive interview with Telangana’s Minister for Industry, IT, Municipal Administration, Urban Development and NRI Affairs K. Taraka Rama Rao or “KTR” as he is fondly called by his peers. This is a follow-up interview to his talk at TiE Silicon Valley, the night before.
Siliconeer: Educated in U.S., employed in U.S., you decided to head back to India, and we can all see how that played out. Why did you choose this path, what was the motivation?
KTR: I’ve seen my father, growing up, playing a very important role in public life in India. All said and done, I think education in the U.S., employment in the U.S. only gives you exposure, and it gives you an opportunity to understand that the world has moved ahead while India has still not really made its presence felt in the world. So therefore, I think, as a young Indian who has had the opportunity and the privilege of having the scope to serve the people, I always had it in my mind that I had to go back.
My stint in the U.S., even before I came here, was always pre-determined that I would go back and possibly assist my father.
I went back in 2004 and worked in the same organization, which I was working in the United States for two more years and in 2006 I quit my job and started assisting my father and today, 10 years later, I am representing the state of Telangana.
Siliconeer: As a role model, what would be your advice to youth and aspiring entrepreneurs here and in India?
KTR: Well, I am not a role model for entrepreneurs because I’ve never really succeeded much in my own entrepreneurial efforts but I think the aspiring entrepreneurs in India, especially, have a lot to learn from Silicon Valley.
In fact, Silicon Valley today tells you an amazing story, they call it the American dream. I think now Silicon Valley is home to the dream of pretty much every national in the world who wants to make it big, because in today’s world where the world is flat our technology is at the greatest level and it gives you an opportunity to dabble and actually come out with your own product irrespective of where you are from.
So any Indian youngster who today wants to make it big, I would say, don’t plan just for India, plan for the world. Make it as big as you can. Dream big and think big, don’t be limited by skeptics and don’t be limited by your friends and family who will try to influence you negatively.
Typically in India, entrepreneurship is not something that is celebrated, but I think the times are changing. Today entrepreneurship is looked at with a great deal of respect and failure is considered a good thing also.
More often we have seen a situation in India where we received entrepreneurs who failed also with a great deal of respect, so things are changing, but they have to change much more rapidly.
Siliconeer: The one thing you would want to see in Hyderabad that you like about Silicon Valley?
KTR: Well the one thing I would like to see is the ecosystem, in fact, what I loved about Silicon Valley is how quickly you can actually connect, how quickly you can actually bounce off your idea off a potential investor. That is the ecosystem that is missing in Hyderabad. We would immediately like to plug it, if possible we would steal some venture capitalists away from here, plant them in Hyderabad.
But I know it happens over a period of time. Even Silicon Valley was not built in a day, so we have to bite our time while we start putting out our own startups into Silicon Valley.
I think we’ll take our own time in developing a good ecosystem but I hope it happens sooner than later
Siliconeer: The T-Hub is coming to Silicon Valley, that’s really out-of-the-box. How did the idea come up?
KTR: Last time when I was here with some of my friends of Indian origin and more specifically, who belonged to our state, we had a casual conversation. That’s when I understood the value of having an outpost here, because eventually if you think about it, any idea in today’s world is only as worthy as its valuation.
Therefore, if you have to get a good valuation, if your idea really has to be appreciated by the world, I don’t think there is a better place than Silicon Valley today.
So to have an outpost here to push your case, to basically insure that most of the work that we do today in India, also gets a world exposure, I think Silicon Valley is the place.
Siliconeer: Where would you like to see yourself placed in next 5 to 10 years?
KTR: Next 5 to 10 years, I would like to continue serving people and I would like to insure that my state grows and becomes the top state in India.
Siliconeer: If you were the Prime Minister of India what would be your vision for the Indian youth?
KTR: Well I think young India today needs a lot of employment. Young Indians are looking for opportunities. They are looking for not only being employed by somebody else, they’re not interested in being employment seekers, they’re interested in being employment generators. They are interested in self-employment also.
So I think if I were the prime minister, I would ensure that the financial institutions across the country are more helpful to the youth, are more forward thinking when it comes to taking risks, are more forward thinking when it comes to investing in risk capital, which is currently missing in India and I think that once you give wings to the aspirations of the young Indians, we’ll see magic happen.
Siliconeer: What’s your vision for Telangana, how do you see Telangana as a state impacting technology in the next 10 years?
KTR: Well as a state, we need to get the basics right, we are working on our infrastructure, in all areas.
Simultaneously, if we have to leap frog and get on to the big stage quickly, I think we also have to leverage technologies at our disposal. For example, if we have to streamline citizen services, we have to ensure that the technology is put to effective use. At the same time, if Telangana has to find its place in the map, has to be another Silicon Valley to reckon with, then we have to encourage and foster more and more innovation.
We have already created the country’s largest technology incubator called the ‘T-Hub’ in Hyderabad, but that is just the beginning. We want to do more and more things, more and more disruptions, more and more innovations, not just in technology space we also want tech-agnostic innovations.
We are looking to build prototype labs. We are also looking to invest heavily in research and development in some key sectors such as data analytics, cyber security gaming animation, multimedia, entertainment, photonics.
All of these are the new sectors, next waves of growth. If we latch on to them, if we invest heavily in terms of time and also money and if we are able to attract a lot of private capital, I think Telangana will be the powerhouse of technology in India
Siliconeer: Your comprehensive outlook for the state in making it to sustainable in tech-enabled is quite impressive. How does Telangana fare in comparison to the rest of India in unemployment, education, agriculture, and other natural stats?
KTR: We are not very different from other states today when it comes to agriculture unfortunately. In India, agriculture still is not remunerative in spite of a lot of interventions from the government. That is something that we have to work closely with government of India in changing it.
In terms of education, I think we have far better opportunities, far better facilities then the rest of the country. We have world-class institutions, we have business schools, engineering schools, medical schools which are of high quality, and law schools of premium nature.
In fact, our high schooling system also produces great many students who are now in IITs and IIMs across the country, so therefore our education facilities are definitely better. Infrastructure, we are in a better state than the country but in terms of agriculture there is a long way to go.
Siliconeer: Do you have an actionable plan for engaging the Silicon Valley ecosystem in your future growth initiatives?
KTR: Yes absolutely, in fact, we are creating a system where we want some of them to be our brand ambassadors, our mentors, our advisors and we are forming a technology advisory council and we want most of these gentlemen to be a part of our story and we want them to represent the state of Telengana, here.
They are already doing it in a personal capacity, we would like to formalize it and insure that most of them actively participate.
Siliconeer: What’s your favorite cuisine?
KTR: My favorite cuisine is probably Chinese.