Aakash Failure in India

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Aakash – the initial phase and the role of the national government

The project Aakash was backed financially by the Union Government to make, design, and provide economic tablet computers based on the Android platform to the schools and universities across the country.

A British organization named DataWind has produced the Ubislate but it is being made by Quad, a company based in India, at its Hyderabad production center. The production had an initial trial run of 1 lakh units.

The tablet was introduced officially on October 5, 2011 in New Delhi as Aakash. The Union Human Resource Development Ministry had stated that it would come up with Aakash 2, which will be an improved second generation version by April 2012.

Aakash – product life cycle

The following table describes the sales pattern of Aakash tablets during the first few months of its introduction:

Month Units sold and booked (approximately)
October 2011 4 lakh units
December 201130 lakh units
January 201214 lakh units

Aakash – the product

The features of Aakash tablet can be enumerated as below:

  • touch screen of 7 inch
  • ARM 11 processor
  • 256 MB RAM
  • Android 2.2 operating system
  • 2 USB ports
  • high definition video
With regards to applications, Aakash will access an independent market named Getjar instead of the Android market.

Main intention behind introducing Aakash

Aakash was created by the union government to connect 400 universities and 25 thousand colleges as part of its e-learning initiative. In the start it was supposed to be sold for 35 dollars but its selling price increased to $50.

This was done before the government could procure orders for the $35 price. The product is expected to be provided to the students at free of cost. UbiSlate 7+, which is Aakash’s commercial version, is presently being sold for $60.

Nowadays, most of the knowledge gathering happens through internet and the demand for digital content has been increasing significantly in the last couple of years. Another important purpose of the Aakash tablet was to address this growing demand. The government also wanted to make sure that every child in India had access to a laptop and the Aakash project was a major step in that regard.

Main problems of Aakash

The major problems with Aakash may be mentioned as below:
  • less memory
  • regular interruption in system operation
  • poor quality of sound
  • lack of support for every format
  • absence of installation facilities in case of free software that is available on the net
Experts have also stated some other reasons such as the following:

  • low battery capacity
  • small screen
  • lack of proper infrastructure for support and training
These problems were especially acute in the rural areas. This proves the adage that what is inexpensive need not be high in terms of quality as well. Technological experts have also stated that with its specifications the Aakash product was bound to fail.

Role of IIT Rajasthan in Aakash project

Datawind has placed majority of the blame of the failure of Aakash on IIT Rajasthan that had been entrusted with monitoring the entire project. The firm has stated that the IIT projected great concern regarding the functional capability and overall capability of the product in order to assist other companies.

Suneet Singh Tuli, the CEO of Datawind, has stated that once they won the right to make the Aakash tablets they sent 10 thousand units to the institute. This was part of an initial agreement between the Indian government and the company whereby it was to provide 1 lakh units at $49.98 each.

However, IIT Rajasthan started to reject the product after the starting level pilot project where a couple of hundred students had been provided the tablets. They supposedly stated that the product was unsuccessful in pilot tests and not at par with quality standards laid down by the institute.

Tuli has stated that when they won the contract they were only given a specification sheet and has termed the methods employed by IIT Rajasthan for testing the product as lacking in scientific logic and impartiality. He has stated that the issues created by the institute meant that they lost out on six months’ time on the project. He has further emphasized that the organization is still trying to delay the project.

It has been reported that the Ministry of Human Resources Development has sent a show-cause notice to IIT Rajasthan regarding the condition of the Aakash project. The notice has raised some important questions like why no proper testing facility was set up in time and why the institute was not able to end its issues with the company.

It is being stated that the IIT had also collaborated with Wishtel, another organization that has come up with a cost effective tablet named Ira during January 2012. Datawind has revealed that it has withdrawn all the tablets provided to the IIT. Tuli has stated that they have not received any payment for those units but has reaffirmed the company’s belief in the overall project.

Aakash project – the present status

At present Datawind is working on the improved version of Aakash named Aakash 2. In this tablet the previously restrictive screen will be replaced by a capacitive screen, which means it will be able to support multi-touch functions. Their original order of 1 lakh tablets for Aakash has now been transferred to Aakash 2.

Tuli has stated that the bidding process for Aakash 2 will start once the initial order of 100,000 units is completed and he has stated that Datawind will take part in the process as well. The Union Minister of Human Resources and Development, Kapil Sibal has stated that units of Aakash 2 were supposed to be sold from May 2012 onwards.

Datawind is also marketing Ubislate, a commercial version of the tablet. Tuli had revealed that the organization had got in excess of 3 million pre-booking orders for the product but the product was yet to be made available to consumers within the stipulated time.

Tuli has stated that the firm was aware of the delay and would try their level best to make sure that people who had ordered for these received their tablets in time. They were also thinking about providing UbiSlate+, which is an upgraded version of UbiSlate, to the customers. These were to be provided at prices equal to Ubislate and were supposed to act as compensation for the delay.

Aakash distribution among students

Till date Datawind has supplied 6640 tablets to IIT Rajasthan and they have sent 572 of these to government colleges. 26 have been provided to coordinators and the statistics for the rest may be mentioned as below:

InstituteTablets provided
IIT Rajasthan 181
Central University of Rajasthan19
Dayalbagh Educational Institute Agra59
IIT Ropar Punjab19
IIIT-DM Jabalpur47
MANIT Bhopal19
IIIT Allahabad27
Directorate of Technical Education UP17
AKG Engineering College Ghaziabad25
NIT Rourkela Orissa12
VNIT Nagpur Maharashtra23
MBM Engineering College Jodhpur7
Knowledge Consortium of Gujarat20
Technical Education HP5
NIT Jalandhar20
NIT Agartala Tripura4
PG Government Girls College Chandigarh20
IIST Thiruvananthapuram2
RGPV Bhopal20

The Union Government has also decided to provide these tablets to students in government schools for a price ranging between INR 1100 and 1700. It will be marketed as the Ubislate Netbook.

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Last Updated on 4/27/2012

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