As reported today by the Hindustan Times, the world’s cheapest tablet – Aakash, being procured by HRD ministry, is made in China.Documents reviewed by HT show DataWind founders and NRI brothers Suneet and Raja Singh Tuli may have procured these devices off-the-shelf from manufacturers in China for $42 ( Rs. 2,263 then), exactly the price at which they sold these to the Indian government.
DataWind bought more than 10,000 or more “A 13” made-in-China tablets from at least four manufacturers in Shenzhen and Hong Kong between October 26 and November 7. These were shipped to India duty-free as they were meant for school students under an HRD ministry programme.
Last year, Canada-based DataWind won a bid to supply 100,000 low-cost computing devices to students. Aakash 2, which is meant to be India-made, is part of that agreement. We do hope that our worthy ex-HRD minister must have mentioned in the contract that the ordered devices can’t be imported from China. If that is the case then the government must be at liberty to cancel the contract anytime.
The moral of this story is that the government should avoid doing business directly with foreign companies for those projects, which can be handled more efficiently by professionally run IT companies of India. We have no dearth of such types of companies in India, which are gloablly reputed like HCL Infosystems Ltd., etc., which could have offered better alternative to Aakash devices.
There is no harm in engaging foreign suppliers, but who will provide after sales service, as Datawind does not have established set up in India for providing after sales support.. HCL would have been better alternative even if the government has to pay a little more for their dream project. This project of Aakash is bound to collapse as there are going to be support issues and how they will be addressed, is any body’s guess. For such technology project, just by handing over the device, you can’t achieve the end-result; you have to maintain these devices also for its return on investment.
As per records of Indian government, they have failed miserably in their commercial ventures like civial aviation,hotel and tourism business, transport and railways etc; to name a few. The government should restrict itself to managing the country in smart ways and should leave the commercial aspects to be handled by professinally run companies.
We have written earlier also that this ambitious tablet project of HRD ministry is going to become an irritant thorn in the head of this government, and they still have time and opportunity to handover this project to reputed Indian company otherwise the government will have to face lot of heat on account of its failure!
PS : PTI has reported that Datawind, the maker of Aakash has denied media reports about sourcing of complete Aakash tablets from China. As per the company, the assembling and programming of the low-cost tablet has been done in the country and only some main parts have been sourced from China. “For the first 10,000 units for IIT, and for expediency sake we had the motherboards and kits manufactured in our Chinese subcontractor’s facilities, and then the units have been ‘kitted’ in China at various manufacturers for expediency, whereas the final assembly and programming has happened in India,” Datawind said in a statement.
The company said it got the approval from the government to procure components from China. “This was well discussed and we got approval prior to shipping. The initial devices were assembled and programmed at our facilities in New Delhi and Amritsar,” it said.