Business Today

Orders pile up for Ubislate tablets, but can DataWind deliver?

The company has already received pre-booking orders for 3 million units of Ubislate 7+ and they are still coming in. Though DataWind has tied up with new manufacturers, it may have trouble meeting the demand for the Rs 3,000 tablet.

Sunny Sen | April 30, 2012 | Updated 15:54 IST

Sunny Sen
Sunny Sen
Suneet Singh Tuli and his London-based company DataWind officially launched what was initially billed as the world's cheapest tablet computer on Thursday, April 26, in Delhi. Almost as a throwback to the interest Tata's small car Nano had created among the consumers, Tuli's company has received pre-booking orders for 3 million units of Ubislate 7+, the tablet's commercial name.

Out of these 3 million, around 2 per cent has paid full value for priority delivery, Tuli told Business Today.

At Rs 3,000 per tablet, a little back-of-the-envelope calculation will tell us that Tuli already has around Rs 18 crore-Rs 20 crore in his pocket. Many of the smaller Indian domestic mobile phone makers catering to regional markets are yet to cross this mark.

Tuli claims he is getting daily fresh orders of 8,000 to 10,000 pieces. While there is plenty of demand, delivery may not be able to meet the schedules. Tuli said he's even considering alternative manufacturing avenues, but DataWind may have trouble meeting demand. "We expect to get 3 lakh to 4 lakh tablets a month and still a lot of people will be unhappy that devices are not coming," says Tuli.  

DataWind's partnership with Quad, the manufacturing company, ran into trouble as some contract terms were allegedly not honoured. Even after tying up with new manufacturers, Tuli says he might have to look afresh to China for more manufacturers.

DataWind made headlines when it bagged the Ministry of Human Resource and Development's Aakash tablet orders in 2011. Since then, the company has continued to make news, although the headlines haven't always been favourable.

Critics also found fault with the tablet's design, which they said was low quality and difficult to use. DataWind is also facing competitive pressure as other companies in India and abroad get into the low-cost tablet game.

Neither the controversy nor the competition discouraged Tuli, nor did they stop India's aspiring tablet owners. Tuli compares the idea of a low-cost tablet to a slim wad of soap paper that he takes out of his travel kit.

He says: "You find a sachet only in India, nowhere else in the world." India is driven by affordability. If all goes well, Tuli says he will be participating in the Aakash 2 tendering process as well, but with a new set of partners.

Correction: An initial version of this story has been corrected to reflect several changes.  The headline misspelled "Ubislate," and the story referred to "DataWind" as "Datawind."  Finally, Tuli told Sunny Sen that he had an order book of "3 million," not "30 million" as we'd initially said.  The associated "back of the envelope" calculations have been altered to reflect that.

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