It took only two days for Hyderabad-based Deepthi Ravula (38) to leave her successful 15-year corporate career in the US, and return to India to work for her home state, Telangana. Her life may bear a striking resemblance to SRK’s Mohan Bhargava in Swades, but it was truly Deepthi’s love for her motherland that led her on this path.
Armed with an engineering degree from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Deepthi moved to the US in 2002 to pursue her higher education from San Diego State University. Her first job was with Nokia in the area of audio acoustics, following which she worked with tech giants like Palm, Atheros (now Qualcomm), and Litepoint.
She was at the centre of an exciting career as a hardware engineer in Santa Clara, when she received the ‘golden opportunity’ to become the Joint Director of Electronics, Government of Telangana.
“Deep down, I have always had a soft spot for my motherland, Telangana. I was in constant touch with my friends back home, and some of them were a part of the government. I think when you live away from your country is when you realise you want to do so much more, and I wanted to do the same for Telangana. And then this opportunity came my way,” adds Deepthi.
Silicon Valley to Secretariat
Upon returning to India and taking on her new role as Joint Director of Electronics in 2016, she was caught by surprise at the stark contrast in work culture.
“Since no one from my family had ever worked with the government, we didn’t have first-hand experience. I had always imagined a different culture; but when I started working, I realised they work for as long as 16-17 hours. I am still surprised at this, and I must say it has been a positive experience,” shares Deepthi, in an exclusive chat with MAKERS India.
In her role, Deepthi has brought her technical and corporate expertise to policy implementation, research, policy evangelism and investment promotions. It was at this point that she realised that while policies for women entrepreneurs existed, not many women were availing these opportunities.
“My role was to make sure these policies are operationalised, and that’s when I made a note that barely 5-6 women entrepreneurs are entering my office every year. So, instead of just speaking about this, we decided to create a separate platform to focus on women entrepreneurs; something that was more organic. And that’s how WE HUB was born,” explains Deepthi.
Focus on women entrepreneurs
In 2017, WE HUB (or Women Entrepreneurs Hub) was announced by Telangana government, and Deepthi was appointed CEO. It is India’s first State-led incubator to foster and promote women entrepreneurs to start up, scale, and accelerate with global market access.
“We work with entrepreneurs across scale, sectors, educational, geographical and operational capacities. We would work with an entrepreneur who is looking to get about Rs.2 lakh turnover a month or somebody who is making Rs.2 crores a month,” shares Deepthi.
WE HUB aims to create a supportive community for aspiring and existing women entrepreneurs, where they can interact with VCs for funding, connect with corporates for scaling up their business, receive guidance from mentors or fine-tune their ideas with the help of experts.
“When we speak to entrepreneurs, we tell them being a woman is just incidental. We build strength in them, speak to their families in case of resistance. That’s not all - we teach them financial discipline, how to avail collateral-free loans, and related skills,” adds Deepthi.
Calling WE HUB a facilitator, she adds that information dissemination is of utmost importance when it comes to grabbing opportunities, and that’s where the state-led incubator plays an important role.
WE HUB is also stepping up efforts to attract rural entrepreneurs in collaboration with German Development Agency, through a one-year incubation programme for women-led enterprises in the villages of Telangana.
“There is a lot of ground work that is done, we travel 800-900 kilometres every week, and cover six or seven districts every month. We conduct boot camps for women on entrepreneurship and find passionate women who want to make it big,” says Deepthi. She adds that WE HUB aims to inculcate the learnings from Telangana, and take it to the entire country.
Upward and onward
In the last few years, WE HUB has had several success stories to its credit. One of the prominent ones being that of Radhika Rajoju, who came to them in 2019 with only Rs 20,000 and dreams of starting a garment manufacturing factory with 100 employees. “Today, she has an investor who gave her Rs 5 lakh, runs a small plant, and has nine people working for her. Hopefully, she will be able to achieve her dream by next year,” shares Deepthi.
Another WE HUB incubated startup, Radius EduTech provides end-to-end digital transformation for educational institutions. Radius was grappling with several hardware challenges due to the COVID-19 outbreak; but with the help of WE HUB, the startup has now grown its user base from 400 to 40,000 users. Deepthi adds that it is these success stories that help other women dream bigger.
“We give women multiple avenues to meet their role models, and to learn from them. At the end of the day, it’s not talks but stories that resonate with people,” Deepthi says, signing off.
(Edited by Athira Nair)