Saturday, November 05, 2011

Aakash is the limit

Aakash - the sky in Hindi, is the name of the new andriod power low cost tablet built by DataWind. It is supposed to be cheapest in the world at $35. Aakash has Wifi connectivity, GPRS access point and USB ports. Most importantly the tablet has the blessings of the Government of India. There are talks of the device being made available in schools and colleges across the country. There have been lots of comments and review about the device in the media, people have rubbished the minister who launched the product and have generally relegated the tablet to the thrash bin.

For any technology product to become ubiquitous it needs to have universal acceptance which means that it has to be in the hands of the common man who is NOT digitally savvy.  The last time something like this happened was when mobile telephony came into India. It is not uncommon for the lowest denominator on the street to have a prepaid connection and use the cell phone ( assembled in China ) and consume content.

The government has made a good start by earmarking a bulk of the tablets for school kids. My point is that there is hope on two fronts:
  1. The dismal education system in India needs a boost and the tablet can do that by making technology, internet and content available to the kids who have to otherwise wait till they get to the college levels to have access. Self learn modules using the touch screen would let the children explore the topics they want from their syllabus and around them. This would mean that there can be teacher less classrooms and a uniform quality of knowledge that gets imparted.
  2. Eventually the tablet screen can become personal infotainment option leading to the broadcaster directly being able to talk to the audience without the interference of the middle men. It creates a new dynamic two way relationship which only a true consumer friendly organisation would understand.
It is not going to be easy to get the first point going, with mutiple languages and cultural biases, it is a complex situation. But not impossible. There are several experiments in the past like the 'hole in the wall' project by NIIT's Sugata Mitra that have shown that if given a free hand the children from varied backgrounds can evolve into expert users even when they do not have a clue about the tech behind the device. The kids are not scared of experimenting like us adults and learn very quickly. Now think what is possible with self learn modules being provided via a wifi or a USB drive to the government sponsored tablet. In ten years we might actually have a whole generation of free thinkers instead of the 'rote learning' mass produce that the school system churns out every year. The returns of the investment will be its weight in gold. The problem is that there are too few who are focussing on this area. Most investment in education in India is aimed at the moneyed top end of the market while the middle India languishes with indifference. And this creation of solutions cannot be based on the aided models - those are normally shoddy and lack definitive edge that paid models have. Maybe the solution lies in creating something that is funded by media or ad funded. I am not sure at this point what that model is, I lack the imagination of a startup in this space, but logic makes me think it is possible.

An educated market is far ahead of a semi literate or illiterate market. The aspirations of the people who are aware are more aggressive than that of those that live closeted. The market that would get created by the Aakash tablet is likely to drive consumption far beyond what we can imagine. The sectors impacted would most probably be banking, ecommerce and entertainment. Imagine a 5 million market base that has access to this tablet, to education and then imagine what it would be to communicate with them in their language. The only way this can happen is if there is a paradigm shift in ad spends in India. And not for the luxury car segment but for day to day use fast moving, small pack size items - soaps, toothpaste, oils, masalas, banking services. I get a feeling that this new medium would be the equivalent of the wall painted ads that one sees across rural and semi urban India.

If I were the deciding factor on the business side of things at a broadcaster ( I work for a broadcaster!!!), I would try to get out there and embed apps that provide my content to this market that has access to the tablet on an ad funded model. Short format meaningful 3 minute episodes that can be created out of the existing soaps on TV or source content / create content for this category. Trust me when I say this - there are enough people out there who watch videos on their mobile phone using the crappy 2G connections using youtube or aggregators like Vuclip.

There will always be a savvy English speaking, willing to pay top rupee for subscription model in India for quality content. A tablet like Aakash can change the equation drastically. Hopefully there are enough of us to start preparing for the massive tsunami coming our way.

    1 comment:

    VenuG said...

    @spuriousmallu I retweeted your link even before reading it & after reading this , I will RT again :) @VenuSpeak

    I opine exactly as you do . I RATE any gadget , technology , products , only on ONE COMMON STANDARD '' Value for Money on McDIndex '' Say a McDonald burger would cost $15 @ Paulo Alto or Silicon Valley , unless it is priced @ PRICE * $2 ( Indian price of a McDonald Burger Ra 89 ) / $ 15 , it is a #Fail product IMHO ..

    Secondly , what people fail to understand is Indira Nooyi , Vikram Pandit , Sabeer Bhatia ,Kiran Shaw Majumder , Vinod Dham , Khosla , Kanwal Rekhi , A P J Kalam , N R Narayana Murthy , Azim Premji , Nandan Nilekani , Laxmi Niwas Mittal , Sunil Bharti Mittal all came from great upbringing & humble background , So did Bill Gates & Steve Jobs
    Now THIS High priced Samsung , Blackberries , iPhones , iTabs Motorola Phones won't succeed EVER IN INDIA . 1% Market in comparison to 70% US Market may be successful in MNC lingo , but sane educated people like me treat them a BIG #FAIL :-)
    Micromax SPICE LAVA NOKIA HCL to some extent Samsung in sub 10k Corby Galaxy segment are #SUCCESS
    Go to my link , check my links , I will put a snap of my run down Nokia E 63 price 8950 WITH 3 year AMC + INSURANCE , I do Everything on that , camera , video's , blog , Facebook , music upload , youtube views .
    I never ever use a Desktop or Lappy or Netbook !
    Only recent times I used it was when I wrote my MTV hero Roadies 9 blog . As it required video picture linking .

    I'm eagerly waiting for RIL Tab @ Ra 6k with 1 Gigs dl @ Ra 10 on 3g you see what I can do THEN !
    Check my klout score to realise how hollow that '' If you don't have an iPhone you don't have an iPhone '' #TVC sounds
    Win / GUI / iPhone is for Dummies
    Geeks USE UNIX , LINUX , Ubontu ( from USB drive ) Android 2.2 on cellphone & Android 2,3 ( both gingerbread )
    The naysayers & name droppers hardly realise .. Akash is used by a Tech GEEK @ IIT , NIT , NIFT , NID , IIM , FMS Jadavpur University * THEY ARE THE BEST BRAINS IN THE COUNTRY *
    PLEASE visit IIT Kharagpur during January Spingfest , I will show you what phones , laptop , PC OS geeks USE :-) you will faint .
    Undersigned works on the youth space, he vouches , he is yet to see 1 apple iPhone iTab in any of the 5000 + kids I've known #VenuSpeak
    Corby . HTC , NOKIA . Lenovo , Nikon , Sony , Micromax , Lava Blackberries ( Sabsey sasta for bbm *winks*
    Finally a STERN WARNING TO Adobe
    Losers if you don't allow Fb video on Symbian who loses ? #SeriousKoshchan Not me BUT YOU
    Oh Darling Yeh Hai India
    As you say , the people to whom Akash is targeted it fits the bill . IMHO Y+4 from Akash India will be a SUPERPOWER
    That's what matters
    India needs information Akash fits the Bill @ cheap
    Nothing Else Matters as Metallica sung