Aakash tablet: Overhyped, overbooked and delayed

Remember the world’s cheapest tablet to be coming out of some factory in India? Yes, the Aakash tablet. We have got some news about it. It is making waves if we go by the mainstream media. There was news that quite a few governments have been making frantic calls to Kapil Sibal on how can they get some tablets for their respective countries. The cheapest tablet has suddenly became the most-wanted tablet.

Aakash tablet, India

Indian students pose with the supercheap 'Aakash' Tablet computers which they received during its launch in New Delhi, India in October. Pic: AP.

After the initial trial, the tablet maker has opened the floodgates for retail consumption. There are two versions of the tablet. Aakash is the tablet with lowest specifications and was available to students only. Ubislate is a slightly better-specced tablet which is available for everyone.

Datawind has opened up the gates through a website form which looks like it was done by a tenth grade kid during his spare time as a summer project. If it was, then the kid needs to re-do the project. If it wasn’t then Datawind needs to be reprimanded by the Internet gods. And lucky for Belarus citizens they don’t have to look at this eyesore from India as they’re not allowed look at foreign websites.

Times of India (my favorite newspaper) has reported this today :

Aakash tablets : 14 lakh booked in 14 days

The result: 948 Facebook recommends, 368 tweets, 193 comments and 20 +1’s. Actually the 20 Google Pluses is quite an achievement.

Just the kind of story any writer wants to start a new year with.  But the problem is the story – if it ever was – misses a lot of points.

There are 14 lakh bookings (1.4 million). I’m sure there were. But the form never asked for a credit card. There is a cash on delivery option available which means everyone was doing just for the heck of it. The form is so well designed by our kiddo that it doesn’t even check for duplicate entries. For all we know, 14 lakh bookings could be from the same person.

Sales bookings for the world’s cheapest tablet, Aakash, have soared to 14 lakh units just two weeks after it was put up for sale online for Rs 2,500 (US$47) apiece.

Datawind was never in a position to cater to any serious demand. It didn’t have any business to open up its web channel. When Aakash was launched, Datawind CEO has mentioned that their Hyderabad facility can produce (read assemble) 7,000 tablets per day. Now the CEO is opening up factories in Cochin, Noida and Hyderabad and plans to ramp up the production capacity to 70,000 per day. And here comes the epiphany :

Aakash’s maker Datawind is, however, strangulated with supply constraints, compared to Apple which managed smooth deliveries of the iPad. “We are not accepting cash for bookings currently, as we want to sort out supply issues,” Tuli added.

And here comes the kicker from TOI. I love this one :

Even with a resistive touch and slow processor, Aakash has received about 1 lakh orders a day since online launch last month. In comparison, Apple sold about 10 lakh iPads in 28 days and 30 lakh in 80 days of its launch in April 2010. Currently, the cheapest model of iPad at Rs 29,500, is about 12 times costlier than Aakash.


PS: The Government of India was seeking Taiwanese manufacturers help to mass produce Aakash tablets. And this is where my head starts to spin. The tablet was initially for just students. And now they are open to retail. After which the government of India jumps into the fray to engage some Taiwanese manufacturers. Can someone start making some sense please? Yes. Kapil Sibal can do that too.