Jayesh Ranjan, Secretary, Department of IT, Electronics and Communication, Government of Telangana
In an exclusive interview with CW, Jayesh Ranjan, Secretary, Department of IT, Electronics and Communication, Government of Telangana, talks to RAHUL KAMAT about how T-Hub, optic fibre network, Phase-2 of the metro and new sectors like aerospace and defence are attracting investments in the state.
What makes Telangana among the most sought-after states in the country?
One, we have come out with our industrial policy, where some features are unique compared to any other policy in the country; we are the only state in the country that follows the self-certification system. For an investor with the intention to set up an industrial unit, self-certification, particularly for a civil structure, brings a big relief. Telangana is the only state where investors need not take any approvals to start civil work; an investor with self-certification only has to comply with the norms set by the state. Typically, it takes six to nine months of approval; with self-certification, it takes only a day. For other statutory approvals, as per our industrial policy, the time deemed fit to grant them is 15 days. If the state authority fails to approve a project within 15 days, on the 16th day, it is automatically approved. Officials responsible for delays will be held accountable. This is why we are seeing a flow of industrial investments into Telangana.
Please tell us about some of the areas or sectors of interests in the state.
At present, we are focusing on many sectors such as aerospace, defence, life science, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and IT, where we have reaped the best investments. These sectors have attracted the who's who of the world. As far as the IT sector is concerned, we want to decentralise it to grow manifold. If you could see the geographical presence of IT sector in Telangana, it is primarily dominated by none other than Hyderabad. After a point, there will be a resource and infrastructure crunch in Hyderabad. That's why we have already sanctioned Rs 25 crore to develop IT incubation centres in Khammam and Karimnagar districts. In case of aerospace and defence, we are now taking the lead. As we speak, over 1,000 small and medium enterprises are operating in this sector and there is growing interest among domestic and foreign entities to set up their manufacturing operations. We are developing an aerospace and defence cluster that houses at least a dozen companies that are collaborating or serving global majors.
Apart from these sectors, we are giving a push to the textile, food processing and automotive segments, especially the electrical vehicle market.
What about the retail trade policy expected in the next two months?
The retail trade policy is in the finalisation stage; we have already consulted the industry and are getting their inputs. We are awaiting related departments to give their permits. Once we receive the necessary permits, we will consolidate the policy and the state will process it for internal approvals. But even if the policy is not in place, big retail players already have a presence in the state because of the proactive approach of the government. For instance, IKEA has decided to open its first retail outlet in Hyderabad. It's their first in the country and will be launched by July 2018. That apart, Dubai-based retail player Danube is opening a retail outlet in Hyderabad. Other big players like Walmart and Metro have a presence in the state. And as they have a large presence in Hyderabad, now they are showing a positive intention to invest in other Tier-II or Tier-III locations.
What makes you affirm that Digital Telangana is more ambitious than the Digital India programme at large?
Digital supply as envisaged by the Digital India programme is meant to take broadband connectivity to the gram panchayat level. In our Digital Telangana mission, connectivity is taken right till the houses. With T-Fibre, each of the 9 million houses of the state will get dedicated optic fibre cable-based connectivity with a guaranteed minimum Internet speed of 15 mbps. In that sense, it is much more than what Digital India has envisaged. Similarly on the demand side, Digital India talks about digital literacy. Now, of course, digital literacy is being done in all states but my personal assessment is that we are doing it in a progressive way, than any other state. In this programme, everything we do in the state has a clear timeline and deliverables. We have already approached good private partnerships to implement this project. So everything is on track.
For such a huge programme, have you come across any challenges in terms of approvals, or raising funds?
By undertaking such a programme, we consider ourselves a start-up. The optic fibre programme undertaken by us is one of the costliest projects in the world. No other country in the world will dare to take up such a project considering the cost involved. Just imagine, every household in the state will be wired with this project. The state is investing Rs 6 billion. With this programme, we will be connecting around 10 zones (31 districts), 584 mandals, 8,778 gram panchayats, 10,128 villages and 9 million households. The optic fibre for the programme is being laid alongside the state government's drinking water pipeline project, Mission Bhagiratha. Separate ducts are being laid alongside the water pipelines, helping reduce the expenditure. We have also found that with the implementation of T-Fibre, private sector is also likely to be benefitted.
Hence, on the lines of the 2G and 3G spectrum auction, the state will auction the T-Fibre network. Also, for this project, considering the amount of returns we are likely to receive, we have our own fund-raising plans. We will raise 20 per cent from debt. Please share your fund-raising plans for major infrastructure projects being taken up in the state.
First of all, Telangana is a revenue surplus state. There are a few states in the country that are revenue surplus; apart from Gujarat, one of them is Telangana. And thus, we have a strong balance sheet to raise funds from the market. For many of the flagship projects of the state, the capital is being raised from the market; for some projects, there is a budgetary allocation. We also rely on PPP, where the government contributes in the form of land. So funding a project depends on the size and complexity involved.
What are your plans to develop IT parks in key cities to make them IT hubs?
We host the country's largest incubator T-Hub -which has become a national role model in a short span of two years; Niti Aayog is looking to emulate its model. T-Hub has grown leaps and bounds from being a co-working space for start-ups to creating an ecosystem involving start-ups, corporates, investors and academia, not just from Hyderabad but across the globe. Today, it has been associated with 835 start-ups, has on board 117 mentors, has enabled 32 community and 14 international partnerships, has conducted 13 start-up oriented programmes, and has seen 57 of its start-ups raise $33.6 million in funding.