For DataWind, the year 2017 was good year. It has been able to sell 5 million tablets. In fact, for the first half of the year, it was market leader in sub Rs 5,000 category. Now, the Canadian firm has applied for mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licence in India. In an exclusive interview with TechObserver.in Sanjay Singh, Suneet Singh Tuli, Founder and CEO DataWind says, “The colossal increase in the number of people using internet and how internet has created its space even in the remote areas of the country gives us immense opportunity to grow in the coming year. We are hopeful to acquire MVNO license in 2018 and hoping to launch new products for Indian audience.”
How was the last year for DataWind and what are your plans for 2018?
The previous year has been a roller coaster ride for us. It was a very important milestone for us as DataWind achieved the feat of delivering 5 million tablets. We were the market leader in sub Rs 5,000 category in the first half of the year. We have also applied for MVNO licence in India for better connectivity and we are hoping to get it soon. We also launched new devices like moreG max, Vidya tab and 3G6 smart phone.
The biggest development that we saw was foraying into Indonesian markets with our new product Meranet browser in a partnership with Telkomsel and Hutchinson 3 in Indonesia. Meranet browser will provide one year free internet browsing on android phones to all Telkomsel and Hutchinson users.
We are expecting 2018 to be a wonderful year for us as people in India have learnt to grow faster with technology. The colossal increase in the number of people using internet and how internet has created its space even in the remote areas of the country gives us immense opportunity to grow in the coming year. We are hopeful to acquire MVNO license in 2018 and hoping to launch new products for Indian audience.
What are the key trends in tablet market that you see having significant impact in 2018?
If we look at the recent trends, phablets are replacing entry-level tablet market completely and becoming more popular amongst the new tech startups for their service delivery, taking a pie from commercial tablet market. The reason for these being- high cost, absence of keyboard, high service costs and so on. The manufacturers are leaving no stone unturned to include maximum but best features which include attractive design elements like flexible display, longer battery life, detachable tablets etc. Essentially, the key drivers expected in tablet market include increase in the need for mobile applications among consumers due to improved internet connectivity. Also, there is a huge increase in the demand for phablets in corporate, hospitality, healthcare, education, and other sectors which is further projected to amplify the market growth.
Do you see any new vertical emerging to boost the tablet or phablet demand?
The key business driver influencing our business in India is the affordability factor i.e. growing demand of smart phones and tablets at competitive prices. And DataWind has been a pioneer in the same. We are the only tablet provider in India focused on offering affordable tablets and Internet access. All DataWind devices come bundled with one year of unlimited Internet access, and feature the most affordable ongoing plans available in the market due to the company’s unique, patented technology that reduces up to 97% the amount of data needed for web browsing.
The another driver is transformation in education space from contemporary to modern. By its very nature, technology change at a fast pace and making it accessible to teachers and other stakeholders is an ongoing challenge. While many of the educational content have matured with the general education technology programs in urban areas, India is still revolutionizing the rural populace. The role of technology in education continues to expand as teachers seek to take advantage of available technology in the classroom to enhance learning opportunities. This is where we bridge the gap by consistently providing low cost internet enabled devices pre-bundled with basic educational apps helpful for teachers and children.
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.
What are your expectation from Budget 2018?
We expect some relief in terms of GST from the government. DataWind had entered the telecom market with the cheapest educational tablets. As we have always stated, DataWind aims to fill the gap between conventional and smart education by providing affordable devices. Due to tax rebates in certain Indian states, we were under 0% tax bracket. In the last fiscal year, we have seen a steep rise from 0% to 18%. This was done with the introduction of GST in the last fiscal year thus making our products costlier and unaffordable among low-income group. We look forward to reduction in GST on low-cost educational tablets from 18 percent to 5 percent and if possible remove it completely. We are hopeful that the process of GST refunds gets expedited thus helping to run the business with ease.
India as a country imports a large number of electronic goods from neighboring countries. There should be a focus to substitute imports with domestic manufacturing. This can again be achieved with attractive tax slabs. We have some success in that field but the value addition is still low. There is a need to provide an edge to domestic manufacturing. Similarly, there are a lot of low-end items being imported, and if produced locally they present a good opportunity to indigenous companies by providing local employment.
We hope this budget would be sympathetic towards the sector so as to resurrect the affected businesses again. Overall, we are hopeful for the new budget to create a conducive environment for new job creation, exports and future economic growth of the country.
What are your views on Net Neutrality?
We believe that Net Neutrality is necessary, but current implementations are overbearing and have the opposite impact. Overly restrictive implementation of Net Neutrality has the impact of strangling innovation, instead of spurring it.