Keeping in mind its focus to drive the availability of affordable connectivity devices, DataWind is also considering to foray into the affordable 4G device segment by mid-2016 and planning to start two new manufacturing facilities with an initial investment of INR 200 crore in India.
Suneet Singh Tuli, President & CEO, DataWind speaks with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about the company’s plans for year 2016 and its performance in year 2015.
How was your year 2015? What were some of the big achievements for year 2015?
2015 has been good year for us in all respect. We sustained our market position as one of the top 3 companies with respect to market share in tablet market.
Some of our big achievements in year 2015 include launch of new smartphones at affordable prices bundled with free internet browsing for 1 year, through our recent partnership with Telenor and Reliance Communications. Recently, we have launched a new tablet 7SC with exclusive partnership with Den Snapdeal TV for selling the Tablets.
DataWind opened new facility in Amritsar for manufacturing tablets and smartphones. DataWind has also been recognized with many awards namely 9th annual NTA ICT World Communication Award 2015 for innovative solution for supporting Digital India. We are named as one of the 20 most innovative public Canadian technology companies by the Canadian Innovation Exchange.
How are you looking up to year 2016 now?
Recently we launched a new app UbiClass, an educational software application that supports “flipped classroom” teaching”. It provides comprehensive support for flipped classroom learning, delivering educational content alongside customised quizzes with real-time grading, as well as instant personalised feedback on a student’s strengths and areas needing improvement. The development took place in the second week of January.
There are 900 million mobile phone subscribers but only 18 million broadband connections are available. This gap segment is our priority. We create products that are optimum balance between usability, performance and affordability for the Indian population.
Instead of the small niche of high-end tablets and smartphones, our focus will continue to be on affordable devices that can empower the masses of India. Future specifications will include expansion to 3G and 4G networks.
We are also considering to foray into the affordable 4G device segment by mid-2016 and planning to start two new manufacturing facilities with an initial investment of Rs 200 crore in the India. We may come out with a sub-Rs 3,000-priced 4G-enabled smartphone as the 4G market matures.
In education domain moving forward, we intend to roll out more devices and integrated solutions that address the educational segment. We are constantly on the look-out for partnerships and collaboration for content and app development specifically in the educational space. As in the past, we will bring free world class quality educational content for learners across age groups and their academic areas of interest.
How will year 2016 be different from year 2015 for your organisation?
Customers enter into transactions with us for the value we deliver to them. Every customer wants affordable solutions and we deliver it. Our technology gives us the ability to offer ‘optimized’ products that is not only great on value and price but also representative of high-end technology. We’ve consistently demonstrated the company’s endeavour to breach affordability barriers for our customers.
We believe our brand has the necessary requisites to forge and sustain a long and beneficial relationship. We are driven by our vision to bridge the digital divide and we will do that by creating access and reach through our devices. Our brand promise is to offer a Ubiquitous mobile solution that stands on two firm pillars of technology and affordability.
We are planning on many more tie ups with telecom operators to have a wide presence in the country.
What could year 2016 bring for the technology sector? What are some of the big trends that you believe will rule the tech sector in 2016?
Throughout each year, there is always a lot of interest in predictions for the year ahead and the latest trends. We’ve seen over the past few years, the sector continues to grow, vibrant ecosystem, expanding rapidly across a broad swath of product, technology and services companies. We believe that there are plenty of new and emerging opportunities which could continue to provide robust growth across all of the telecommunications sub-sectors.
Looking towards 2016 telecom market trends of M2M, Cloud computing, OTT services, wearable technologies and 4G Infrastructure will continue to drive the broader telecoms sector ahead. But if you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old and move ahead of competition by tapping what’s new and gain the first mover advantage. Being the first allows a company to acquire superior brand recognition and customer loyalty.
The company also has more time to perfect its product or service.First-mover status must never be a strategy in and of itself, only the prelude to a larger and longer strategic plan.
Q5. How are you as an organization gearing up to play an important role in these trends?
Convergence of machine and intelligent data is known as the Industrial Internet, and it’s changing the way we work. We at DataWind are always ahead of time and make the best of technology to provide low cost connectivity to our customers.
As mentioned earlier we are looking to launch most economical 4G phone in India. Also, we already use the technology Internet of Things (IoT) to create a client/server architecture between our devices and back-end proxy servers to deliver free-internet-access which has got alot of appreciation from our customers. According to our estimates, by the year 2016 more than six billion devices and systems will be connected to each other and exchanging data via the internet.
What could be challenges that lie ahead to realize the full potential of these tech trends?
Adoption of any new technology does come down to a comparison of costs and benefits, however that evaluation is by impacted by specific drawbacks that create a chasm, a seemingly huge gap or barrier that impedes progress. That gap is described by some as a break between two stages or types of adopters; the technology enthusiasts and the early majority adopters. It’s a gap between visionaries and pragmatists, between those who see how ideal things could be and those who just want to make it work.
So we at DataWind believe New Year provides all the brands a chance for new resolutions and new beginnings. Also, the chance to beat the hell out of the competition! But, if you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old and move ahead of competition by tapping what’s new and gain the first mover advantage.
Being the first allows a company to acquire superior brand recognition and customer loyalty. The company also has more time to perfect its product or service. First-mover status must never be a strategy in and of itself, only the prelude to a larger and longer strategic plan.
How do you look at the ongoing Digital India and Make in India initiatives by the government of India? Is there any role that is being played by your organization today?
Government regulations, duty structure, and uncertain political conditions have been main challenges in the past. With Modi Govt taking steps in the direction of ‘all clearances under one roof’ and fast track approvals, we are confident that the dream of ‘Make in India’ will actualize. Improved policies on manufacturing, duties, and skill development will enthuse players come to India for setting up their manufacturing units. Not only ‘Make in India’ but also ‘Use Swadeshi’ will also help Produce low cost devices in bulk here.
DataWind has always been very vocal about ‘Made in India’ products. From the very beginning we have been propagating the cause and requesting for making manufacturing process easier for those who want to set up their FABS here for computing devices. It is our commitment to ‘Make in India’ thought that we became the first ones, in fact the only ones so far, to set up a facility for manufacturing ‘touch panels’ in India. Also we have opened our second assembly facility in Amritsar through which we exported almost 2 lakh tablets and smart phones in the first 2 months of operations. We are happy that the Govt is moving in the direction of creating a manufacturer friendly atmosphere.
As far as digital India initiative is concerned we are focused on driving the cost downward to a level where access to technology becomes ‘universally affordable’ and democratization of technology finds its true meaning. We are striving for newer ‘lows’ in price discovery for computing and access products. DataWind’s customers are primarily reached out through open distribution system of retail, online and Home shop channels. Considering the fact that our products are so easily available and are affordable, the Govt should look at leveraging the opportunity of reaching those billion people who require education and connectivity at low cost.
DataWind firmly believes that this digital and internet divide can be addressed through technology intervention, at an affordable price for this segment of customers. In India the internet penetration levels are abysmally low at about 100 million which is perhaps less than 10% of the total population or marginally higher than 10% if one was to consider the 950+ million cellular subscribers. We are in active dialogue with various state governments and evaluating the most economical options and policies that could benefit our customers.