Power of Giving – Srinivasa Raju Chintalapati
A giver in principle, Srini devotes lion’s share of his time to educational institutions of India. He is a governing board member of Indian School of Business, India’s top ranked business school, founding member of IIIT Hyderabad, India’s best deep tech institute, and board member of T-HUB, India’s largest Startup incubator. He a was part of the team that brought the ISB selection team to this site back in 2000.
He was never a gold medallist in college and he switched from civil to computer science. He took courses in Stanford and never waited for an opportunity. In 1990, he was suggested not to return to India. But he took a chance and became the first CEO of the Dun Broad street Satyam Services. It later became the world’s largest IT services company. With this money and he started Satyam Enterprise, a JV with Satyam. In three years of its operations, Satyam had become India’s largest ERP company. He left Satyam when it was the best on the day Bill Clinton came to India.
Srini joined hands with luminaries such as former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and former chairman of Tata group Ratan Tata to build Krea University in his Sri City, a private university centred around interwoven learning and preparedness for the 21st century. Based on his experience in guiding India’s top institutions, Srini is working with MHRD to put together a model that makes educational institutions truly autonomous.
Srini’s empire: Peepul Capital with $600 Mn in investments, iLabs Capital, Sri City – an integrated Smart City with 150 MNCs from 25 countries, TV9 – South India’s leading news channel and IIIT in Sri City.
Srini’s Family: Srini’s wife Jyothi builds family properties. His son Karthik is a partner at iLabs Capital. Kartik is married to Akhila and they have a new born baby girl. Srini’s daughter Vaishnavi has a degree in marketing and is into consumer funding.
Bhat) You are well known for the smart city you have built. Talk about it.
Srini) Sri City is 75km away from Chennai and is in 100 sq. kms area bounded by hills, Pullicat lake and ISRO. Out of the 25,000 acres only 10,000 acres is assigned for development. We have a workforce of 35,000 now and the rest of them will come from the neighbouring villages. City can accommodate up to half a million people.
Take any city in India. We consume more than what we produce. We are net-net consumers. Sri City is changing this paradigm. It is all about new sustainable living through renewable energy. We designed the city in such a way that the farthest place to work is just a kilometre away. That eliminates pollution due to transportation. Companies located in Sri City are makers of metro trains, cars, phones and even earthmoving equipment. Big brands such as Pepsi, Colgate, Hero. and Kellogg
I started a fund called iLabs Capital. We funded 50 companies till now. Tech, media, consumer services and all. I am an investor in TV9, India’s largest network. We are creating a smart city. It is a sustainable city.
Each of you will be presented a different opportunity. Grab the opportunity that comes your way with both the hands. We played in a market space if $100 billion and you may play in $100 trillion in size. As a fellow ISB alumni, I am very happy you chose to be with ISB. A day will come you will be proud to say in the same lines of Harvard, we are from ISB.
Bhat) Why did you name it Sri City?
Srini) Most of the cities in that region either start with Sri or Tiru. We started with Sri Puram and changed it to Sri City to make it sound modern.
Bhat) How do you attract companies there?
Srini) If India is ranked 100 in the world in ease of doing business, I would say Sri City is ranked 25. 80% of the companies are foreign companies from 27 countries. In that sense, Sri City is the largest international city in Andhra Pradesh. We take away their pain points of getting approvals, working with local government and meeting the international standards of eco-friendly work and living. This is our competitive advantage as we know how to navigate the challenges of ease of doing business.
Bhat) How did TiE Hyderabad happen?
Srini) I was in Silicon Valley before coming here. Kanwal Rekhi started TiE. We used to go to TiE for networking. After I sold Satyam Enterprise Solutions in 2000, I started doing investments in valley. Around that time, they decided to start local chapters. They appointed Saurabh Srivastav, Nandan Neelekanki and few others to start chapters in India. C K Prahlad was the moderator at that time when we met in an island. Even Rajat Gupta was very active. We had our first meeting in Cyber Towers in 2000. Around a dozen TiE chapters started within the same year.
Mentors, customers and money are the three things people sought in those times. We never had family business guys come to us as they are part of groups like YPO.
Bhat) Describe yourself in three words
Srini) Calm, analytical, owning it up. No complaints. Just start solving.
Bhat) What would be your lifelong dream?
Srini) Be part of institutional development. IIIT in Sri City is closer to my heart. I can’t be a nobel prize winner but one of these institutions can produce one.
Bhat) If you are stranded in an island, what two things would you want with you?
Srini) Let me give an example of how I think. One day we were on 34th floor of a building in Tokyo. I got a 40-second heads up about an earthquake. My wife tucked herself underneath a nearby table. I was just standing away from the windows. Later, she asked me why I didn’t do anything. I told her 34th floor means if something must go wrong, we got no chances of survival. When the building shakes, glass may break and hence I stayed away from the windows.
I will take life as it comes. Knowing that I get stranded in island, I choose to take nothing with me. I am like that protagonist of the movie ‘Castaway’.
Bhat) What compliments do people give you most?
Srini) People say I stand on my word. Even if I don’t stand on my word at times, I will try my best to keep my word.
Bhat) What have you done that you are most proud of?
Srini) Sri City. I pick this because I carried it despite many challenges on the ground. It is dependent on me. Other initiatives that I am part of may not be heavily dependent on me. But Sri City does.
Bhat) Leader or follower?
Srini) Leader. I don’t mind working with a team and follow someone. If they leave me alone I won’t bother. I can work with equals.
Kali) Srini is a great team player.
Bhat) Define happiness?
Srini) I will define it with an equation.
What you want – what you have = unhappiness.
If the difference is small, you try to improve. If it is too much, you are very unhappy. If there is no difference, then you have nothing to chase.
We can get same happiness and same experience without materialistic things. We may not know. We keep doing this orbital shift. We are born in a smaller orbit. Many of us die there. Each orbit of life gives different happiness.
You can get the same happiness of eating biriyani without eating biriyani. In Bhimavaram, we used to plan a week in advance to go to a place and eat biriyani. That one-week planning gave happiness. The real act of consuming Biriyani may be limited to the taste buds and after eating it may even cause troubles such as indigestion.
Only for a very few things have I gone out of the first orbit. I have never celebrated my birthday in my life. I was born in farmers’ family. I never know my birthday. When I was 30 years old, my wife somehow derived my birthday. I don’t even feel the need to celebrate my birthday and I miss wishing people on their birthdays. Same is the case with anniversaries. Small celebrations won’t give me happiness.
How do I get happiness then? I trained myself in few things. I don’t keep materialistic things. I have some liking for off road vehicles but not any cars. When I go into the crowd and when people don’t identify me, I don’t feel bad. The meaning of wealth is the ego that you satisfied in doing something. Building the institutions give me happiness and wealth is the means to achieve it.
I believe in service to humans is service to God. I don’t think if God expects people to be subservient to him, He is a bigger version of these big emperors. Is that what it is? If God is benevolent, He sees your deeds.
Bhat) When was the last time you laughed out loud?
Srini) A friend of mine called SV Reddy makes me laugh. Even Dr. Ravi Penumatsa too. When we were in investor summit in Vizag, we laughed to death when a non-Telugu friend shared non-telugu jokes in telugu. Even Dr. Somaraju of Care is witty.
Bhat) Four things you would change about yourself?
Srini) I would like to bring some more discipline. At times, I spend more time for a smaller problem and leave a bigger opportunity behind.
Bhat) What is the first thing you think about in the morning?
Srini) Institutions that I am part of and how I can make them big before I go.
Among the sports persons, I revere Gopichand, Dhoni and Rahul David. Even Virat. I wish there are more people like them in the world. They lifted many people surrounding them.
Bhat) What will you never do?
Srini) Forgive others not because you want to but you want to have inner peace. I don’t want to hold grudge against people as it holds huge space and time. That may make people see me as weak i choose not to punch back.
Bhat) What did instil in “going big” in you?
Srini) If it is not unique, I lose interest very quickly.
Bhat) The next big thing?
Srini) I don’t want to see humans becoming machines. Sooner or later, drug research becomes highly predictable as against trial and error research that we do in drug development at the compound level.
Bhat) What do you fear the most?
Srini) The day you are getting served by someone in the bed, it is time to go.
Bhat) What frustrates you?
Srini) Many gifted and lucky people still don’t want to give something back. It is about time. There is money that government can spend. It got to be spent carefully. Time is more important than money.
Bhat) What do you do off work?
Srini) Nothing. I mix things up. But it gives me a lot of flexibility.
Bhat) One final advice for the readers?
Srini) You may choose to retire from making money but never take retirement in life. Give back. Time. Money. Or both. If not, at least time.
Bhat Dittakavi of Variance.AI interviews Srini Raju of Peepul Capital along with Kali Prasad Gadiraju of E&Y (President of TiE Hyderabad) on 18th May 2018 as part of TiE Today Series