The ‘Aakash’ it seems is the limit for controversies dogging India’s ambitious tablet, touted as the world’s cheapest.
After being embroiled in controversy following its release in October 2011, the launch of the updated tablet, the Aakash 2, was low-key but garnered good reviews. However, those good reviews should be directed to the real manufacturers of the China-made tablet if a Hindustan Times report is to be believed.
The report today says that, the company manufacturing the Aakash tablet, Datawind Ltd., purchased more than 10,000 made-in-China tablets from at least four manufacturers in Shenzhen and Hong Kong between October 26 and November 7.
Calling the article “sensationalist”, “inaccurate” and “misleading” and denying the allegations by the newspaper, Suneet Tuli, CEO of Datawind, told website PKR that like other technology companies, Datawind uses subcontract manufacturers to build products.
“Our business model is similar to that of Apple where we use subcontract manufacturers to build our products. So, these are built in facilities of our contractors. For the first 10k 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,” Tuli told PKR .
The Hindustan Times, quoting an unnamed source, had said that VMC Systems, the company’s manufacturing partner in Hyderabad, had not built any device over the last couple of months and that Datawind’s other manufacturing partners in Delhi and Amritsar, too, had not built any tablets.
“Instead of manufacturing these low-cost tablets themselves… DataWind has simply purchased these ‘off-the-shelf’ from China and supplied it to the Indian government,” the source was quoted as saying.
The government is to purchase around 100,000 units of Aakash 2 from Datawind by the end of December, at Rs 2,263 each and will make them available to students at a half-price discount of Rs 1,132 through their schools and colleges.
The Aakash tablet, touted to be the world’s cheapest tablet, was mired in controversy when it first released in October 2011. Among its many problems were charges of poor manufacturing, sub-standard hardware, a stubborn resistive screen, poor battery life and a problem of overheating and under performing.
Following its release, the supply of the tablet also came to a halt as Datawind and IIT Jodhpur (Rajasthan), which was appointed by the HRD ministry to handle the awarding of contract and subsequent supplies, were at loggerheads with each other over the testing criteria of the tablet. In April this year, IIT Rajasthan blamed Datawind for the failure of Aakash, following which the two went to court.
This fracas between the two saw the project being transferred to IIT Bombay in March this year.
When the project was transferred to IIT Bombay in March this year, their mandate for the Aakash 2 was to finalise the new specs, complete the acquisition of 100,000 tablets, establish testing procedure and ensure that the project was completed successfully.
On the occasion of National Education Day on 11 November, President Pranab Mukherjee finally launched Aakash 2 in New Delhi.