Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Dil Se : Mahankali Srinivas Rao- Putting missing pieces together for job creators

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Mahankali Srinivas Rao, Chief Executive Officer of T-Hub, has come to be known as a serial entrepreneur. With more than three decades of experience in the Information Technology industry, he is now the Chief Executive Officer of the world’s largest innovation intermediary and business incubator based in Hyderabad. In a free-wheeling conversation with The Pioneer’s

Siddharth Kumar Singh,

Srinivas Rao goes down the memory lane to attribute his entrepreneurial success to the habit of doing everything ‘dil se’.

Seeing India during childhood

My father served the Indian Railways and consequently our family traveled all over India. I did my schooling in multiple locations. I studied in Vijayawada, Hubli, Sholapur and Secunderabad. I am one of four siblings. I had a good Indian middle-class childhood. I got opportunities to see a bit of India because of my father’s profession. I was focused on academics and also interested in other activities like quizzing, sports and reading.

No specific ambition

As a child, I did not really have a specific ambition. But by the time I got to Engineering, I was doing very well academically. I came to realize that Engineering is not what I should pursue. I had the option of doing my master’s in Engineering, but I opted out of it. After that I thought I could either start preparing for the Civil Services examination or pursue a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA). After thinking about it, I decided to do my MBA. And, touchwood it worked out very well!

‘Holi’ punch

People familiar with me know that I have a broken tooth. Once during Holi celebrations, some guy was trying to put silver paint on me. I strongly objected to it.  After that, he got frustrated and punched me in the face. That led to the broken tooth. I was sort of a quiet child.

Participating in quizzes

By the time I got to my 8th standard, I used to be very keen on quizzes. There is a club called K-Circle. As its member, I used to participate in a number of quiz competitions. In those days, on Doordarshan there was a show called ‘Quiz Time’ hosted by Siddharth Basu. In that show, I represented IIM Bangalore and reached the top 8 in the country.

Entrepreneurship is about trying to solve things

Quizzing and reading go hand in hand. By nature I am curious. When I meet somebody I try to understand them; when I visit new places, I try to understand those places. Entrepreneurship in some ways is about discovery; it is about trying to solve things, trying to do things differently. I did some interesting work in entrepreneurship and the opportunity of being the CEO of T-Hub came along last year..

Eventful journey

Overall, the journey has been very interesting. The vision of the leadership should be placed on the table. The concept of T-Hub is such that it should run independent from the government. People are brought in from the private sector to support entrepreneurship at scale. It is similar to a board-run company. This kind of vision is very hard to think of. I try to understand the missing pieces to work on so that entrepreneurship reaches the masses.

Supportive family

I got married very early. Karuna, my wife, is an engineer. She worked for 10 years and then she decided to take a break as we had two young kids who were growing up.After 8 or 9 years of her break, she started working again.She is a special educator. I have two daughters.Both of them pursued their studies in Engineering. After that, one of them went on to do her MBA from ISB Hyderabad and the other daughter did her master’s from the University of Southern California.The elder daughter Divya currently lives in Singapore and my younger daughter lives in Seattle.

Doing everything ‘dil se’

My journey so far has been in three parts. First 12 years (1897-99), I worked for others. The next 20 years (1999-2019), I had two stints as an entrepreneur, both of which were reasonably okay — got to learn a lot, meet different people, build teams, solve problems, and scale both the entities to a larger level.The last three years have been mostly a part of how I can help in contributing to support entrepreneurs. Whatever I set out to do, I do it ‘dil se’. The whole idea is to enjoy the journey.

Giving best shot always

Pressure is required; without pressure, one cannot deliver. The first thing is never take yourself too seriously. The second thing is nothing is ever as good as it seems, nor as bad as it feels. The sun will rise tomorrow whether things go your way or not. Do not worry too much about the outcomes; one cannot control the outcomes. Whatever you are doing, just give it your best shot.

Reading 30 books in a year

At one point of time, I used to read about 30 books a year. Now it has come to one-third of it. I am also passionate about cricket. I follow the game very closely. Also, whenever possible, I try to support young entrepreneurs. For example, I share with them the mistakes I had made so that they do not have to go through that hurdle.

India needs entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship can be a very fulfilling journey because for everything you elect to do, ultimately you are going to be responsible for it. The joy of creating something where nothing existed is very unique and very personal. Secondly, it is not an easy game. For every successful entrepreneur you read about, there are others who are not as successful. It is about ideas, team, market and execution. Be prepared to put in lots of energy. You will have ups and downs; you do get disheartened when things do not go your way. Still, India needs entrepreneurs in a big way. Without entrepreneurship, job creation will not happen.

Happiest moment

In my personal life, the happiest moments were when I got married and when I had my children. Coming to my professional life, it was when I built two companies to a reasonably successful level. Staying in touch with the people I have worked with. Nobody cares how much money you have in your bank. It is about what you have done.


I do not take myself too seriously. I always believe in the philosophy of ‘This too shall pass’.


How do you describe yourself: Calm,
empathetic and focused

Nickname: MSR

Favourite colour: Blue

Favorite food: Curd Rice

Favorite movie: Invictus and Swayamkrushi

Favorite actors: Sanjeev Kumar and
Meryl Streep

Favorite books: To kill a Mockingbird, The difficulty of being good, 21 lessons for the 21st century and The Bhagavad Gita

Favorite holiday destination:  London

Place you wish to visit: Ladakh

Religious or spiritual: Spiritual, I believe in a greater being than us

Your inspiration: Mahatma Gandhi

Your driving force: All of us will be here for a short while, just do your best

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