He is the new man of the new millennium. For all those who had apprehensions about the newly elected Government of the youngest State of India, here’s the good news. Not only is KT Rama Rao an antithesis of the archetypal politician, he’s also somebody who has the conviction and the means to make Telangana one of the finest global hubs. And if you go by the achievements of the ruling party Telangana Rashtra Samithi in the last year, it’s obvious that his portfolio has contributed immensely to the party’s and the State’s growth.
The very dapper and dynamic Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao aka KTR, Minister for IT and Panchayat Raj, is probably the only minister in the State to be armed with impeccable educational qualifications – two post graduate degrees – M.Sc in Biotechnology from Pune University and MBA in Marketing and e-commerce from the University of New York, and an impressive work record – Regional Sales Director, INTRA, before he decided to plunge into politics full time. In between countless phone calls and an army of people waiting to see him in the buzzing corridors of the Secreteriat, KTR accords us the privilege of chatting with him in the inner chambers of his spartan office. He speaks…
“In 2004 September, I came back to India to head the South Asia division of the company INTRA I was working for in the US as the Regional Director. In 2006, there was a by-election because of my dad’s resignation. At that point of time, it was a make or break for my father and the party. I kept telling my wife that I want to get into politics. Without even telling my dad I quit my job and started working for the party. Without his knowledge I took the decision. I told him after we won. He was not very happy but once he realised I was very serious, he was supportive.
I wouldn’t probably have been in politics if I were not KCR’s son. I wouldn’t have been a minister. I am very realistic about these things. In India, being somebody’s son or daughter helps you get an easy entry but people in a democracy will be quite critical if you don’t deliver. They won’t vote you the second time. The first time they may look at you as somebody’s son and vote based on their opinion of your father or your mother. But I’ve won thrice now. So the fact that they have elected me two more times goes to show that I’ve delivered, that I have worked. Being somebody’s son does give you easy access but at the same time, there is a burden of expectations to deal with.”
“I can say that I have represented my party and our causes and issues at various national fora. In the last six years, I have put in my best to serve my constituency. More than anything, I have played my own little role in the agitation for a separate Telangana. I feel happy that in the last 9 years, I have been a part of the objective my father and several other leaders set out to achieve. Now our tasks are cut out and I hope to play a significant role.
A multi-pronged approach
In the last one year, the biggest challenge was to revive the confidence in people. A lot of people thought that after the formation of Telangana, the IT industry would move away from Hyderabad, that new developments may not happen and so on. A lot of apprehensions, a lot of prejudices… We have overcome all that in the last one year. Hyderabad remains one of the most attractive destinations, we have positioned it well. We have been able to attract majors like Google and Amazon to open their largest campuses here outside of the US. We have grown at a very healthy rate. While the country’s IT exports grew at 13%, ours grew at 16 %, 3% more than the national average. We were able to create more than 50,000 new jobs and 2,50,000 direct jobs. We have attracted a lot of IT hardware manufacturers to Telangana. We have made our presence felt in the US, Hong Kong and Dubai. We have positioned the brand image of Telangana and Hyderabad very well overseas. We have been able to retain the existing investors in Hyderabad and also attract new ones.”
IT and Panchayat Raj are two ends of the spectrum. The convergence we’re trying to bring about is very unique and challenging. We’re trying to leverage IT and communications to bring about a social change because technology that does not bring about social change is useless. So we’re trying to incorporate IT into the rural sector also. We’re coming up with a concept called e-Panchayat through which services will be offered right at the doorsteps of the villagers. It will be launched soon. We are also trying to lay the last mile connectivity to each and every household in Telangana. If you talk about e- health, e- education, e- commerce, the potential is huge. So there are several things we’re working on right now and you’ll see a lot of things falling into place in the next couple of years.”
“Not just literacy but digital literacy is a challenge. With literacy you can actually leverage e -education where you’ve a good teacher teaching from Hyderabad and that can be broadcast all over. Good teaching methods and teachers are in short supply in rural areas. Therefore a lot of changes can be brought about and we’re working towards it.
Firstly, as far as IT goes, we have 10-point agenda. There are a lot of targets to achieve. In rural development, we have a bigger challenge cut out for us. We have to not only empower Panchayats but also be firm on the infrastructure. A lot of new and upcoming areas need improvement and have to be focussed on. Women empowerment serves in a big way as far as elimination of rural poverty is concerned. Federated women’s groups are something we’re very excited about because we are involving women’s self help groups in a lot of activities starting from education to procurement of grains. In the next few years, you’ll not only see a quantum leap in rural infrastructure but also rural empowerment and using technology for social change.”
India For The Future
“There is no better country to be in than India for young people today. There is no better place to explore one’s future, one’s career. At the same time they can help our country grow. I don’t think many countries in the world today present that kind of opportunity. In a developed country, all you can do is develop your own career. But I think, in a country like India, there is a huge scope to make a difference not only in terms of social infrastructure but otherwise as well. Our country is full of challenges and needs solutions to them. Today’s youth has so many opportunities and so much information at their disposal. I think they should make better use of it.
One thing I strongly believe in is ‘Politics decides your future, so you decide what your future politics is’. Because in a democracy, everything you do in your daily life is determined by politics. So you better start taking a stand.
I’m not saying everybody should get into active politics but you should be aware of what’s going on because the kind of leaders you want, you should definitely have an opinion on. If you don’t like the kind of leadership you have, you should take it upon yourself to change it.”