New Delhi: Even as Datawind, the manufacturers of the Aakash 2 tablet , have been accused of purchasing more than 10,000 made-in-China tablets and passing them off as the Aakash 2, the company's chief executive officer firefights the allegations.
In an email interview to Firstpost, Datawind Ltd's CEO Suneet Tuli, tells Firstpost that it's unfair to link the company's purchase of the Aakash "units" to the price it was charging the government for the tablet.
Tulli also talks about the "kitting" of the units in China and why the company procured components from China and not India.
Below are edited excerpts of the exchange:
Did you procure 10,000 units of "A13" model of made-in-China tablets off-the-shelf from Chinese manufacturers for $42 (approx. Rs. 2,263 then) between 26 October and 7 November?
We did not procure off-the-shelf tablets. The A13 has become a common standard for low-cost tablets globally and numerous companies (including Karbonn, Micromax and others) supply based on the A13 chip and reference designs. The touch screens (for the Aakash 2) were primarily made by us and the motherboards were per our approved designs and from nominated suppliers.
At the time of the contract (between the Government of India and Datawind), when the Rs.2,263 pricing was agreed, the specs were not the same as the current A13 unit - so it is not correct to link that price to $42.
Were these imported "units" fully assembled tablets or just motherboards which were brought into India for assembly and programming?
These kits which Datawind imported included all parts, including motherboards - which were assembled and programmed in India.
Which of your manufacturing partners in India assembled and programmed these tablets for Datawind?
These first units were assembled primarily at our facilities in Amritsar, and partially in our Delhi offices.
You have said that the 10,000 units for IIT were "kitted" in China? What does this mean?
It means that parts for all the items were collated together in a kit in China, and then assembled in India.
What was IIT Bombay's role in the Aakash 2 project? Did they work on any hardware component of the Aakash 2 or was their involvement only limited to testing and developing/installing apps?
IIT Bombay tested the hardware and provided the applications.
What was Datawind's deal with the companies mentioned in the Hindustan Times report - Dasen International Electronics, Shenzhen Shitong Zhaoli Technology, Kalong Technology and Trend Grace Ltd.?
They procured motherboards from our nominated suppliers and then put together the kits.
Why did Datawind have to procure motherboards from China? Couldn't it be done in India?
These devices contain 800 parts from 60 vendors. Since most component suppliers don't exist in India, materials management and customs processes do not allow for the fast turnaround that was necessary at the start of this project. As we did for the first version of Aakash and then version 1.5, we will eventually shift this process to India for Aakash2 also.