Evangelizing the Brand TiE

Story of TiE Hyderabad
JA Chowdary is a man of simplicity and commitment. During the entire conversation, he never claimed once “I did it”. He gave full credit to his team for the phenomenal work they did in establishing India’s first Software Technology Park in Bangalore, setting up first Software Technology Park in Hyderabad and most importantly building the brand of TiE in Hyderabad.

 JA Chowdary
Back in 2001 or so, When I took over as President of TiE Hyderabad from Srini Raju, I didn’t think the responsibility would be that big. I inherited zero money. TiE Hyderabad didn’t even have a bank account. I leveraged my own team and my own resources. First, we formed a society. We made charter membership fee very attractive to have quick critical mass.

Selfless team
It was difficult in those days to make entrepreneurs of Hyderabad aware about TiE as people only knew about NASSCOM and CII. Few entrepreneurs and people like Fahran, Vishnu Raju, Praveen Raju, Debasish Patnaik came together as a strong volunteer team with no expectations. Their hardwork is the reason why TiE Hyderabad became an established brand today. We shall recognize their selfless services. TiE shall call and facilitate them for doing the initial grunt work. In fact, Farhan paid his own personal money on credit card for many transactions as we didn’t have money in TiE’s treasure.

Early days
TiE members from Silicon Valley showed us the direction and contributed to the cause of TiE Hyderabad in its initial days. Some of the members that we shall thank include Sai Gundavelli, Veena Gundavelli, Raju Reddy, Ram Reddy, Sridhar Iyergar and others. Contributions by Raju Reddy of Sierra Atlantic, which is now part of Hitachi Consulting and Sai Gundavalli are highly significant. TIE Global was persistent in pushing us to form a secretariat team at the earliest. It was hard. I brought in Col. Ravi and he agreed to work without any salary. Utkarsh of E&Y helped us with all the paper work to form the society. Raju Indukuri of Satyam brought in the who’s who of Silicon Valley and they used to address the entrepreneurs at Hyderabad. We got support from a large Hyderabad IT company to host all our events. Some of the speakers included Chandra Shekhar of Exodus, Kanwal Reki and others.

Story of TiE-ISB Connect
Praveen Raju once met Mr. MR Rao, then Dean of ISB. We met him, and he quickly had an MoU with ISB. In those days we didn’t have visibility for the smaller events we did. This is when the TiE-ISB connect conference started. One Chandru of ISB and I coined the name for TiE-ISB Connect. Around the same time, Satish Andra was planning to return to India. He is very good at conceptualization and organization. Satish brought in Tim Draper as a speaker for the first TiE-ISB conference in 2005. We conducted business plan competition and elevator pitches. Maturity of the companies in Hyderabad was below average and some VCs were very upset. We started things from the ground up. Unfortunately, most of the speakers were from Bombay and the incessant rains there made them not show up. Luckily, we found some alternate speakers from within Hyderabad. For all the TiE-ISB connect annual events, we invited sitting chief minister of the state and it gave us visibility and media buzz.

We created special interest groups. We added Jumpstart as a pre-event starting from second TiE-ISB connect in 2006. Jumpstart is a one-day workshop for Entrepreneurs of Hyderabad and had become a bigger success than the conference itself. Deal flows started to happen days and even months after the conference. Lot of connections made at TiE-ISB connect translated to many deal flows. Every week all the volunteers used to come together and discuss with Satish Andra and Ajit Rangnekar at ISB. We had marathon meetings. I really want to thank all the participants who gave two hours every week as a ritual at ISB.

VC Connect was a big hit. Every TiE-ISB Connect, created the corpus for TiE Hyderabad chapter. This is the money that helped us hire TiE team. At one point of time, we got both CBN and YSR to attend the event. ISB got the brand in those days and it pulled TiE Hyderabad along. Students of ISB were immensely benefited from the speakers at TiE-ISB Connect.  I have ensured TiE Hyderabad board had an active young Startups as members. All those Startup founders have exited successfully eventually.

Most of the Startups in those days were in their early stage and we debated to make our own Hyderabad Angels. This is how Hyderabad Angels started. TiE Hyderabad incubated Hyderabad Angels initially. With the success of TiE Hyderabad, it propelled me Into the TiE Global Board of Trustees. Farhan pushed and nominated me in the last minute. Thanks to people like Farhan and others for nurturing TiE Hyderabad and fostering it. We coined Hyderabad4Innovation during the presidency of Ramesh Babu.

Ramesh Loganathan is another pillar. He used to conduct Startup Saturday events at Lamakaan. TiE Hyderabad really pulled things together.

I am one of the few who conceptualized HYSEA. We founded American Chamber (AmCham) before Bill Clinton came to Hyderabad. I was fortunate to do whatever contribution I could do.

My Family
Wife: Shanti Priya never objected to whatever I chose to do. Her cooperation is commendable even though I hardly stayed home.

Elder daughter: Anju Swetha is a good mentor and she helps her friends a lot. She is a net net giver. Her husband is into orthopedics.
Younger daughter: Naga Sravani is a pediatrician and a professor at Apollo Medical College. She is very focused in her profession. Her husband is a doctor in a cancer hospital.
Son: Swapnik has a Startup in Bangalore. He is very focused and grounded.

My background
I hail from a small village in Ananthapur district. I am the eldest son of the family of five children. I took care of the education of my brothers. I am very passionate about agriculture.

Story of Bangalore
I believe that many things are determined by the almighty. I was chosen to be the founding director of STPI. I was a joint director at Department of Electronics. We used to provide import licenses for electronic equipment’s that IT and other commoners imported. The sentiment at that time was not to encourage businesses from importing equipment. I didn’t like such license Raj mentality. Since I didn’t like it, when an announcement came for someone to take charge of STPI, Bangalore, I opted it as my native place was very close. When I moved to Bangalore, I used to drive on my own scooter three hours one way to my office in electronic city. When Narayana Murthy asked me why I picked electronic city that far, I told him that the decision was made by the state. When they slotted the land, we didn’t have internet. I asked DoT to provide packet switch s25 network. Texas Instruments is the first company to come in. STPI concept was incubated in their office.

I fought for the rights or the STPI users. I got some of the archaic laws removed. Just for one 64kb, we used to charge 40 lakhs per annum. We argued with BSNL. We started importing our own satellite earth stations and we created a parallel DoT network competing with BSNL. This made the prices of data communications company to come down big time. This is how body shopping models switched to offshore development in India.

Bangalore was the first STPI in India and Texas Instruments was the first STPI company that did first offshore development through India. STPI provided data, approvals and tax holidays. All because of their satellite tower and single window STPI, today’s IT hub of Bangalore was built.

Back to Hyderabad
I moved to Hyderabad. We didn’t have internet. AP state government gave me space in Mythri Vanam. I approached DoT and local congress chief minister for providing internet. I sought one crore interest-free loan and two acres of land in Jubilee Hills. With this in hand, we could convince the central government to approve the import of satellite earth station for providing data communication links to software companies. That was one breakthrough for Hyderabad back in 1994.

Next breakthrough came through Y2K boom. Because of Mythri Vanam, training institutions mushroomed all around. Even now it is the world’s largest training hub.

We got a leased line from Vizag steel plant to work with mainframes. We started training the folks in India in mainframes. STPI provided training services in mainframes and lotus notes in those days. We convinced Baan to get to Hyderabad and we asked them to give free training to trainees in Baan ERP.

Story of Oracle
We used to take care of all the approvals for IT companies. We made it simple for them. When Oracle wanted to start in Hyderabad, within half a day, we gave 100% EoU (exported-oriented unit) license. That was the kind of speed at which we used to act. STPI provided internet connection, government approvals, import license and a single stop facility for software companies.

Concept or IIIT
In fact, IIIT concept came from STPI. We approached then CM for an institution with focus on technology that IITs couldn’t provide. We wanted to have industry collaboration with academics. When we wanted readymade buildings, Chandra Babu Naidu offered us to take any building we wanted. We identified the buildings that were meant for Rangareddy district. They moved them out and we got the buildings for IIIT. IIIT is the only institution promoted by the government without any reservations. This is first of a kind and an experiment.

Rapid fire

Bhat) If you are stuck in Island, what do you take with you?
JAC) Meditate.

Bhat) Happiness?
JAC) Giving back.

Bhat) Entrepreneurship?
JAC) A journey one shall have the ability to withstand the update and downs equally.

Bhat) Leader or follower?
JAC) Leader.

Bhat) Leadership?
JAC) Take the people along with you.

Bhat) Would you do differently if you do the journey differently?
JAC) I will do the same thing. Create something out of nothing.

Bhat) Any inputs or TiE Hyderabad?
JAC) Job creation. TiE Hyderabad must continuously innovate itself. Promote new age entrepreneurs and disruptive thinking. TiE Hyderabad always has committed volunteers. They can do wonders for a country of our size. Make youth employable. Make this as a model for the other chapters. Arrest the downfall of youth’s potential. Demonstration of innovation.

Bhat) What if you have become President of Hyderabad TiE again? What would be your vision?
JAC) Make Unicorns out of TiE.

Bhat) What is that one thing that you want to leave to next generations of India?
JAC) Money comes and goes. Retain our culture and values that are our ethos. Bring back the true Indian culture.

Bhat Dittakavi of Variance.AI interviews JA Chowdary, Special Chief Secretary & IT Advisor to the Chief Minister, Govt of AP as part of TiE Today Series 

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