At 35$ A Unit, How Did India Pull Off The World’s Cheapest Android Tablet?

At the beginning of this month, Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of India, unveiled what he declared was the world’s cheapest Android tablet. Called Aakash (which means “Sky” in Hindi), the Android tablet costs INR 1750, which converts to roughly about $35 (USD).
The cheapest Android tablet in the United States are made by no-name manufacturers like Maylong and Eken and even they hover around the $200 range. Some of these cheap tablet’s don’t even function as full fledged tablets and are more like large versions of their smartphone counterpart.

So how did Datawind, the Indian owned Company that created the Aakash Android Tablet, pull this off without losing money or quality in the manufacturing process?

CEO Suneet Singh Tuli has the scoop.  Aakash is made by Tuli’s UK based company Datawind. To manufacture this tablet, the company set up a manufacturing unit in Hyderabad, India. Hence the “Made In India” stamp.  The tablet has over 800 components sourced from various places around the world. For instance, the LCD screen comes from South Korea, the microprocessor comes from the United States.

Although all the components come from different parts of the world, the actual tablet is still assembled in India.

How The World’s Cheapest Android Tablet Is Made

CEO Tuli explains how he was able to keep costs down by avoiding finished components and going down to the real component level. The average manufacture does not get down to the real component level. They buy modules, a finished component, which usually have high markups per component. They get a bunch of finished components and put the device together in an assembly factory.

By removing the margins on the modules and going down to the component level, Datawind is able to cut costs drastically in the manufacturing process for the Aakash Android tablet. Even for the LCD screen, which is 1 of the most expensive tablet component, Datawind was able to push it’s cost down to under 10$.

One thing that I think CEO Tuli didn’t mention, but probably holds some truth is “Corporate Greed“. I think Datawind is not greedy like most American and European manufactures and has a relatively low margin on it’s own finished product, the World’s Cheapest Android tablet.

What Next?

Recent Articles

2 Responses to "At 35$ A Unit, How Did India Pull Off The World’s Cheapest Android Tablet?"

  1. Nisha says:

    I do not think you have seen or used it. I have. And it will be a singular disservice to society if you do not report that it is plain junk. Yes, Aakash is plain Junk.

    Even The Statesman reported it and let me reproduce what they said:Aakash gets thumbs down from students

    16 October 2011

    ranjeet s jamwal
    NEW DELHI, 16 OCT: Ten days after the government hit global headlines for making the impossible possible by launching Aakash, the ‘world’s cheapest tablet PC’, students using the device appear to be giving it a thumbs down due to its overall poor quality.
    The most common problems faced by students using the device include overheating (within 10 to 30 minutes), extra slow processing, frequent hangs, poor sound quality, lack of camera or user-friendly touchscreen, absence of support for all formats, and inability to install free software available online.
    “This (Aakash) is much below our expectations. They (government) should have waited till all the problems were fixed before launching it,” said an IIT student, who was one of the 500 who were given the tablets on the day of the launch on 5 October, for field trials.
    While watching a video fullscreen, users cannot go back or abort seeing it midway; it hangs and does not shut down even after pressing the button and the battery gets exhausted by the time the device starts functioning again, he says.
    “It takes time to switch on or off, doesn’t support all video formats,” the student said, adding additional software cannot be installed in the tablet as no connector is provided with the device.
    “It’s not at all useful for IIT students for we can’t even listen to (video) lectures with it. We thought its portability will help us but there’s no point in carrying a device if it’s useless. In fact, I have stopped using it now,” another student said.
    A student of TERI university said Aakash is not user-friendly like a laptop or desktop. “It starts heating up in 10 minutes and then becomes slow. The battery lasts only about two hours; its recharging process is also slow and it gives no indication if the battery is charged or not. The touch screen is also not functioning up to the mark,” he said.
    To cut costs, Aakash uses a resistive touch-screen, instead of the now common capacitive variety.
    Another IIT student said: “YouTube videos can’t be seen with the device. When I tried to open PDF files, it opened in bits and pieces. Software options are there, but they don’t work. The processing is really slow; so much time gets wasted. It’s not useful. It certainly needs to be upgraded.” Interestingly, some of the 170 students who gave final shape to the computer in IIT Rajasthan said they had conveyed these problems to the authorities, while it was being tested. But their feedback apparently was not taken into account before going ahead with the decision to launch the device. Responding to the problems pointed out by students, assistant professor in IIT Rajasthan, Prof. Vivek Vijayvargiya, who was part of the team which worked on the project for Aakash, acknowledged the problems but said it is because the device is being compared to laptops or iPods.
    “You can’t compare a Maruti 800 with a Mercedes. Expectations are very high. Our aim is not high efficiency but to meet the need of rural and urban area students who can’t buy a laptop,” he told The Statesman over phone.
    On the question of launching an unfinished product, Prof. Vijayvargiya said the launch of (Aakash) is being misunderstood by lots of people. He said the manufacturer (Datawind) has supplied only 1,000 devices and they have been given to state coordinators (including students) for testing.
    “After testing, they will submit their reports after 45 to 60 days. So if they find the specifications of the device are not correct or it’s not working as it should, we will tell the manufacturer to further improve the device,” he said.
    The CEO of Datawind, the company manufacturing the tablet, Mr Suneet Singh Tuli, maintains that the ratio of defects in any device sold in India is higher when compared to America because of the harsh climatic conditions in New Delhi.
    The company, selected through tendering process, is supplying the device at a price of US$ 49.98 (Rs 2,276) per unit, including taxes, levies, and charges like freight and insurance, servicing and documentation, etc. Mr Tuli will sell the government Aakash tablets for Rs 1,750 if the order is for 10 lakh units. At present, Datawind has an order for supplying 1 lakh units to the government for Rs 2,276 each.
    The government plans to sell the tablets to students at a subsidised price of US$ 35 (about Rs 1,700) even as it will be launched commercially at about Rs 3,000 (US$ 60).

  2. Raj says:

    Another scam successfully completed by Indian Government. Named Aakash.

Leave a Reply

Submit Comment