Suneet Singh Tuli says he's a relaxed man since February. He is not jittery about the launch of the second and improved version of the low-cost tablet Aakash, whose first version was a disaster as almost 90% of the tablets were rejected during testing. In a chat with Kirtika Suneja, the chief executive of the London-based DataWind, the company behind Aakash, says that despite the glitches, he has no qualms about working with the government again. Excerpts:
How have the last 12 months been for you with old partners leaving and new companies joining you to develop the Aakash?
The going has been great after February and sales went through the roof after that. However, the four months of November to February were tough, but we persevered and the government had a strong vision that no roadblock could hinder. Only IIT Jodhpur and Quad Systems left us and IIT Bombay and C-DAC were roped in by the ministry of human resource development. They conspired a competitive product using our know-how but that was behind us by February. Working with IIT Bombay is good, they are professional people who are focused on developing content and applications that will be useful for students. We have developed a next generation device with them.
What are the features of this device and how is it different from its predecessor? At what price will it be available?
We have increased the processing power from 330 Mhz to 1 Ghz, RAM from 256 MB to 512 MB, a front VGA camera and upgraded the operating system to Android 4.4 besides a multi-touch capacitive screen instead of a resistive one. This will cost R2,263. This is the price at which we will supply to the government and the later will offer at a subsidised price of R1,131 to students. However, there will be two commercial versions of Aakash 2 at R3,500 (WiFi without sim) and R4,500 (with Sim).
How was the original contract changed post the fallout with IIT Jodhpur? Did they lay out a strict testing criteria for the tablet?
The first contract had a good amount of legal language and one page of specifications, but there was no testing criteria. However, the new one is 30-40 pages long with strict testing standards related to environment conditions, humidity and drop testing. IIT Bombay has an open source lab and C-DAC is doing the testing. The original tender asked for a