“AIC-T-Hub Aims To Grow Startups So More Indian Unicorns Can Contribute To The GDP”

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T-Hub has collaborated with Atal Incubation Centre (AIC), initiated by the Atal Innovation Mission to incubate semiconductor startups, fostering innovation for India’s advancement in entrepreneurship, contributing to GDP and employment opportunities. In a conversation with EFY’s Yashasvini Razdan, AIC-T-Hub’s CEO, Rajesh Adla, reveals what sets apart AIC-T-Hub from other incubators.


Q. T-hub calls itself India’s largest incubator, why so?

Rajesh Adla CEO, AIC-T-Hub

A. We have established ourselves across 39 sectors over the last eight years. Our incubation programmes are designed to cater to every stage of the startup lifecycle. We offer programmes to transition a startup across different stages: idea, market, or revenue stages, or the final level of scale. If a startup performs well at a scale level in India, we offer incubation activities to expand into international markets such as the United States, Canada, and others. We have sector-specific incubation programmes for more than 400 startups, focusing on areas like mobility, sustainability, semiconductors, spacetech, and healthcare.

Q. Don’t other incubation programmes offer the same facilities? What makes you different?

A. Our approach sets us apart from other incubators due to the scale at which we operate. While other incubators also have programmes for the idea and market stages, our established structure is distinctive. If you join us at the idea stage, you have the potential to graduate at the scale stage, achieving substantial revenues and establishing collaborations with other countries. Our incubation model is a comprehensive journey for startups, enabling them to grow holistically.

Q. Could you explain the collaboration between T-Hub and Atal Incubation Centre (AIC)?

A. The Atal Innovation Mission, a special project under NITI Aayog, aims to establish incubators nationwide. There are 76 incubators, known as Atal Incubation Centres (AICs), with each state hosting one to two such incubators. Each incubator, focused on a particular sector, partners with a parent body, such as a university, another incubator, or a research entity. The AIC incubator, in collaboration with T-Hub, initially focused on healthcare. From there, we moved to the needs of electric vehicles and autonomous mobility and subsequently delved into green energy technologies and climate intelligence. Last year, we ventured into semiconductors after the global chip crisis. The incubator runs an exclusive annual incubation programme in each sector, selecting 20 to 25 companies from a pool of 400 to 500 startup applicants across India.

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Q. What is the mission or the objective of this entire collaboration?

A. We are a part of a nation-building exercise aspiring for India’s advancement in innovation and entrepreneurship. The 76 AIC incubators are pivotal in various sectors across the country, including those in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. In Telangana, three AICs operate, specialising in social impact, sustainability along with us. AIC-T-Hub aims to grow startups so that they contribute to the GDP, innovation, and employment in the nation.

Q. How would you define your overall success factor as an incubator?

A. AIC T-Hub nurtured 150+ startups in 5 sectors in the last 3 years: 54 products commercialised, 35 IPs generated, ₹140 million investment raised by startups, 70+ customer pilots, and 1400 employments generated by startups. Two chips are taped out and fabricated from the very first cohort of AIC-T-Hub’s Semicon programme. These criteria demonstrate our ability to accelerate the growth of these companies.

Q. What partners or strategic alliances support AIC-T-Hub in its objectives?

A. We believe in co-incubation and collaborating with sector-specific institutions to grow startups. The collaborations include iCreate, Indian Semiconductor Mission (ISM), IIT SINE, T-works, Department of Emerging Technologies, and various Universities and Research bodies globally. We have partnered with T-Works, CITD, NSWAI, and EDS Technologies, providing our startups with efficient prototyping services. We have active engagement with prominent semiconductor companies such as ARM and NXP, and welcome mentors from diverse companies.

Q. How many hardware startups have you incubated at T-Hub and how many of these are related to the electronics industry?

A. The predominant issues founders address typically involve a fusion of software and electronics. Though some companies focus solely on software solutions, most startups, spanning sectors like mobility, sustainability, agriculture, climate tech, or spacetech, leverage electronics to construct systems that efficiently confront the challenges they are addressing. Electronics are part of most MVPs.

Q. How is this AIC-T-Hub fostering collaboration amongst semiconductor startups?

A. Semiconductor development is capital-intensive and technologically complex, requiring substantial mentorship. We establish connections with industry and research bodies in India and Silicon Valley, for support in defining, fabricating, and marketing chipsets and aid startups to access free tools, IP licenses, and potential investment. We encourage partnerships and acquisitions if they align with semiconductor companies’ business goals. We also incentivise attracting talent and startups to this domain and propose support for establishing design centres, innovation hubs, and microfabs.

Q. What is the impact you foresee that these startups are going to create in this growing industry?

A. The semiconductor industry is all about designing and fabricating new chips. All industries utilise these chips and build embedded systems around the chips for various applications including modems, phones, cars, laptops, and routers. Most consumers of Semicon are automotive, telecom, smartphones, smart devices, space, and industrial applications. In our forecasts, we prioritised our cohort sectors to those developing chips for futuristic AI, IoT, and automotive and telecom industries. These sectors are rapidly growing in India, and their consumption is expected to rise significantly. To meet this demand, we aim to have indigenous chipsets. We prefer anyone innovating in these areas and those involved in chip building for other industries.

Q. What role do incubators play in determining a startup’s success?

A. Historically, successful companies might have taken 10 to 15 years to achieve their current level of success. However, with the assistance of incubators, we can significantly reduce this timeframe by 50%. A company that previously took 15 years to build can now achieve the same level of success in 6 to 7 years with the support of incubators. Incubators offer startups various avenues for growth in investment, mentorship, corporate customers, partnerships, international market expansion, or assistance setting up their plants and factories. This catalytic role is not limited to a single incubator; it extends across the country, reducing the time required for startups to succeed. The incubation model we have implemented has proven successful, not just in India but also overseas.

Q. What are your selection criteria for patronising a startup in the semiconductor sector?

A. Our screening process focuses on several key aspects, such as the founder’s experience, the roadmap they envision, the problem they aim to solve, the chosen solution, and the market size for that problem. While screening around 400 to 500 companies, we extract this information from the founders’ pitches. We also consider factors like any intellectual property (IP), patents, or research backing the startup. Recognition through research papers by reputable entities in the semiconductor industry adds value to the selection process. Researchers with PhD credentials and patents initiate some startups in our semiconductor cohort. We actively support these startups in building their products and companies. We also have semiconductor startups with backing from the United States, further enriching the diversity of our cohort.

Q. Is there a particular team that oversees the selection process, and what are their qualifications?

A. In the selection process, we ensure a panel with a deep understanding of the semiconductor industry. Venkata Simhadri, the ex-CEO of MosChip, and M Srinivasa Rao, CEO T-Hub, and myself take an active part in selection. We’ve built a diverse mentor pool, including individuals from research bodies and corporations, who join us on a need basis for the panel-based screening of startups.

Q. How do you generate funding for these startups?

A. We assist these companies with state and central government grants, encourage participation in PLI and DLI schemes, and connect them with mentors from this sector. Working closely with the government of Telangana, we advocate for funding by educating and collaborating with investors, including angels and VCs. We have synergies with numerous investors, investor groups, and VC firms, and provide them with a curated list of matured companies across various sectors, who evaluate our startups. If aligned with their investment criteria, many invest in these companies at the HNI (high net worth individuals), angel, or VC stages.

Q. What is your approach to managing all this funding for different sectors?

A. We are a facilitating platform. When startups approach us seeking investment, we connect them with potential investors. Conversely, when investors approach us, looking to connect with startups for investment opportunities, we also facilitate those connections. Alongside this role, we have an investment desk—a team continuously monitoring the investment landscape in the country and sector-specific investments. They engage in an ongoing iterative cycle of educating individuals relevant to these sectors about our companies, their stage, and potential investment opportunities. We organise various events involving investors. For example, sector-based conclaves where investors in a specific sector advise young companies on raising investments. They also share their experiences of securing investments while managing their companies.


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Yashasvini Razdan
Yashasvini Razdan
Yashasvini Razdan is a journalist at EFY. She has the rare ability to write both on tech and business aspects of electronics, thanks to an insatiable thirst to know all about technology. Driven by curiosity, she collects hard facts and wields the power of her pen to simplify and disseminate information.

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