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Low-Cost Indian Tablet Project Falls To Corruption 144

Posted by samzenpus
from the failure-to-launch dept.
symbolset writes "The first Aakash tablet proposed for India schools has failed. Datawind managed to deliver the $45 Android tablet as reported here previously, but suffering a breach in faith by both their contract manufacturer and the accepting agency in India had to put the project on hold. Facing a loss in revenue it's turning into a disaster for the small Canadian company as they are now proving unable to deliver both the Aakash tablet and the parallel retail product. Senior executives have begun to flee. The company has presold a great many tablets, and delivery failure reports are beginning to mount. Is this the Phantom console of this decade?"
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Low-Cost Indian Tablet Project Falls To Corruption

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  • Get the money first and then manufacture the product.

    • by Shoten (260439)

      You clearly haven't done business in India. "Manufacture the product" is where things went off the rails here, even as stated by the summary: "but suffering a breach in faith by both their contract manufacturer and the accepting agency in India had to put the project on hold." Corruption is most often found in the implementation phase of things, because at that point you're committed to the bridge/road/product/building/whatever and the person demanding a bribe understands this. It's far easier to simply

      • Re:Money first (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968&gmail,com> on Sunday May 06, 2012 @11:45AM (#39908235) Journal

        Answer? Make it in China and don't tell them about any deals! From the looks of it it was the Indian government with its head up its ass, it kept changing the specs with finally asking for specs similar to USA milspec (which as anybody knows costs thousands per unit because of how much abuse they can take. They ARE built for the battlefield after all) while still expecting them to keep the price low enough you could practically give them away...ohh AND they wanted double the battery AND a doubling of speed on the CPU! Hell why not ask for a pony to bring the stars of the last porn convention to blow you while you are at it?

        The moral of this story is FUCK THE GOVERNMENTS and instead simply make as good a product as you can to fit a price point. if this guy can crank out sub $80 pads that are actually pleasant to use? Then he WILL find a market for them. Hell if it'll play SD video at whatever resolution the screen is I'll take 4 please. But by dealing with governments unless you are a "good old boy" that knows their games and whom to slip the envelope of money to you aren't gonna win friend, that is just the way it is.

        • The moral of this story is FUCK THE GOVERNMENTS and instead simply make as good a product as you can to fit a price point.

          To put that lesson in a more educative way, when you want to make the life of people better, if you need money, you'd better get the money directly from them, and not use the government as a proxy.

        • by rastilin (752802)

          When the customer starts changing the contract, the proper answer is always "No". It's tempting to think that they can only change their minds once. They can change their minds over and over until you get driven out of business, especially if they think they can buy your product directly from the manufacturer, which is now a local company. If your only contribution is capital and an idea, you've made yourself irrelevant once the product hits the production stage. Especially if the buyer and the manufacturer

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          USA milspec (which as anybody knows costs thousands per unit because of how much abuse they can take. They ARE built for the battlefield after all)

          Are you a troll, or do you really believe this? Because milspec often is not special in any way. It's simply "specified by the military".

    • by KDEWolf (972921)
      It doesn't sound as bad when people call it Kickstarter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @09:23AM (#39907453)
    incomeptent contracts != corruption
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's funny that you can't even spell incompetent [reference.com].

    • It's not just incompetent contracts, but also looks like there was some breach of faith somewhere alone the way.

    • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @11:09AM (#39908061)

      incomeptent contracts != corruption

      Breach of faith means that somebody failed to meet their commitments. That can mean that they signed up to do things that they later found out were harder than they thought. That's incompetence. Or more often it means that they knew they wouldn't come through and took your money anyway.

      The fact that they were paid in advance for hardware tells me it's more likely corruption/fraud than plain incompetence, but often you get the incompetence rolled into a fraudulent deal.

    • "$45 tablet? No sir, this is impossible. You told us $45 tabla. Now that we can arrange."

    • by hey! (33014)

      incomeptent contracts != corruption

      That may be true, but in my experience business deals require a little trust. If you think you can make a deal with untrustworthy people but protect yourself with contracts, you're naive. When you take the other guy to court because he stabbed you in the back, no result you can hope for beats never having dealt with him in the first place.

      These kinds of international business deals that involve technology and design know-how transfers are especially tricky. If your overseas partner suddenly realizes that h

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @09:35AM (#39907517)

    India? Corruption? You don't say...

    • by ArchieBunker (132337) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @09:38AM (#39907527) Homepage

      Looks like they forgot to factor in the cost of bribes. India is pretty much a 3rd world country by most standards. Money goes a long way towards having things go "right".

      • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @09:48AM (#39907587) Homepage

        The phrase 3rd world has nothing to do with standards or wealth and India is a 3rd world country, I believe.

        That being said, I do not know about bribes, but I have been involved in projects where part of the team was outsourced in India and you often get what you paid for with outsourcing from what I have seen.

        • by vlm (69642) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @10:07AM (#39907687)

          I have been involved in projects where part of the team was outsourced in India and you often get what you paid for with outsourcing from what I have seen.

          Let me guess

          "I can hire a whole team of educated experienced developers in India for the cost of one American dev"

          turns into a bunch of imaginary billing by people with fake degrees and no experience and no communication so it ends up costing more and not working.

          Analogy: Tenth cost android tablet in India ends up late and doesn't work. Isn't this Just how it always turns out over there?

          • No, everyone we paid for at the very least seemed technically qualified for the job.
            The problem was that several other companies were also paying them to work full time for them.
            We found out, and one thing lead to another and they withheld all the work they had done on the project thus far.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              No, everyone we paid for at the very least seemed technically qualified for the job.

              Did you verify this? Did you check with any of their other clients? Did you get examples of their work?

              The problem was that several other companies were also paying them to work full time for them.

              Did you set up delivery schedules? Did you send anyone to India to "sniff around"?

              We found out, and one thing lead to another and they withheld all the work they had done on the project thus far.

              Let me guess; you still got suckered out of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
              Due diligence - learn it.

              • by vlm (69642)

                Did you verify this? Did you check with any of their other clients? Did you get examples of their work?

                Did you set up delivery schedules? Did you send anyone to India to "sniff around"?

                Le me guess... "Why should we? The outsourcing consultant who made a lot of money said it would be just like hiring local employees and we've never done any of that to our employees."

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Megane (129182)

            turns into a bunch of imaginary billing by people with fake degrees and no experience and no communication so it ends up costing more and barely working but when you fire them you discover that the code is a twisty piece of crap with WTFs everywhere and it would be easier to start over from scratch.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

          The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World), or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions.

      • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @10:49AM (#39907949)

        > 3rd world country by most standards

        By all standards I believe. I don't think they backed the US nor the USSR during the cold war.

    • by kryogen1x (838672)
      Yeah, if only they had run this project in a city like Washington DC, we'd have computers that print money to cover their own costs.
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • by Anonymous Coward

    People seem to be surprised that Akash tablets are turning out to be failures.The cost factor was a big lie and so it will be revised.
    There are tablets available for $70-$75 range.Take a look at olivepad v-tr200 specs.You will be surprised that its there and shipping.
    Not that it ought to be good...but cost reduction is possible.

    http://www.olivetelecom.in/laptop/olivepad/vtr-200.html

  • Short version (Score:5, Informative)

    by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @10:22AM (#39907783)

    From what I can tell, they got the tender, did all the groundwork, then the group they were collaborating with came out with new impossible to achieve specs, backed up by the government, and their subcontractor wandered off to create a competing product.

    What a pity, but it looks like they've been had.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Sadly this kind of thing is all too common in India. A friend of mine was fool enough to believe it when he was promised all kinds of percentages and payments "in the future" if he'd help arrange investors for a project in India. He did his work, he made the contacts, and now most of the participants have signed on to side deals that don't pay him anything.

      We warned him it was too good to be true. I'm sure people warned those who got into this $45 tablet debacle, too. But some people won't listen to

      • Well hopefully it doesn't ruin any of the well meaning guys that tried to make this happen, dollar signs aren't usually stacked too deeply around $45 tablets! With any luck they can call it lesson learned and get on with their lives the wiser for it.

        • by msobkow (48369)

          Don't underestimate the profitability of hitting a billion user market in hopes of earning $1 per customer...

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      well jeez it was just such an original forward thinking item that no one could have ever come up with ARM+touchscreen+android during all this time they have been dragging nuts getting around to it

  • I don't know if it's fair to still call DataWind a Canadian company. Yes, it was founded in Montreal, but ... R&D is in Montreal.. management is in the UK.

  • This project needs to die, and die fast. It doesn't matter just how it happens, it's a colossal waste of money. Datawind were trying to sell awful junk for more than it costs to just buy a bit less awful junk from China. The Indian government department concerned is clueless about technology, from the minister all the way down.

    Shameless self promotion, but very relevant: you can read my old blog entry about the folly of this project here: http://colourmeamused.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/4/ [wordpress.com]

    The reason for poor

  • by Roman Mamedov (793802) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:54PM (#39909235) Homepage

    Everyone touts it as the second coming, some great breakthrough etc. Well here's one for $55. $10 more? Yes. But with free worldwide shipping included.
    http://www.aliexpress.com/product-gs/454240700-7-Inch-Android-2-2-Tablet-PC-support-WIFI-3G-Android-MID-with-retail-package-8121-wholesalers.html [aliexpress.com]
    + thousands of other models.
    People thinking a tablet is called an iPad and costs $500 or whatever and you can get nothing cheaper, should get a reality (or an Aliexpress) check.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Oh, Wow! What a deal!

        A device with half the memory that I needed to run a GUI-based Linux distribution over five years ago, and less storage space than my MP3 player.

        This isn't a "product" anyone will find useful. It's a piece of crap that won't actually run anything worth the effort.

        • The linked tablets have the exact same specs as the indian one mentioned in this story. So if you're going to diss the specs, you can start right with that one. And no, you don't run an old GNU/Linux distribution on these tablets, you run a tailored version of Android. Which runs pretty well with 256 MB of RAM.

          • by msobkow (48369)

            Which would kind of be the point: You can't get anything worth owning at the $50 price point.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Which would kind of be the point: You can't get anything worth owning at the $50 price point.

              The shitty tablet posted above has more power than my first dozen computers put together, and probably more RAM too. And I got real work done on many of those machines. You're full of shit.

              • by msobkow (48369)

                I'm bored, so I'll bite the troll hook.

                A 1GHz PIII with 512MB of RAM takes nearly 3 minutes to boot and load to the point of being able to browse with Firefox with Ubuntu or Windows XP. Without hardware acceleration, the box is incapable of displaying video any faster than 4-5 frames per second when full-screened.

                It takes a minute or two to load an office suite to edit a document.

                Just because it used to be my primary work machine when I bought it does not mean that software bloat has made it useless

                • That 1GHz PIII is faster than a 1GHz Arm chip out now. It would *fly* with any of the smartphone/tablet OS's.

                  Remember, these things are not normally running full-blown general-purpose linux distros.

                • by vandamme (1893204)

                  Well, duh, running windoze and anti-virus, what would you expect? Try a lite Linux, there are a bunch of 'em. 512M? Puppy, or Bodhi maybe. No, not Kubuntu.

    • While I'll admit that iphone knockoffs have sometimes seemed to be better than the original [businessinsider.com], I have no idea how I'd go about checking if I'm actually going to get something that actually turns on, let alone has half the capabilities of an ipad.
      • Unlike eBay the Aliexpress system shows buyer feedback for each item publicly, so you can see that on both tablets that I have linked they have hundreds of positive "excellent", "5 star" feedback from people.
  • by superflit (1193931) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:56PM (#39909665) Homepage

    Coming from a third world country I can tell:

    The more poorer a country more corruption it has.

    And please do not refute using 'per capita' income (the arabs country have higher 'per capita' but it seems only for the 'choosen ones')

    Sad but true...

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "The more poorer a country more corruption it has."

      In rich countries, we call corruption "government" and it's less visible due to being in cahoots with the people who also own the media.

      • by kesuki (321456)

        "The more poorer a country more corruption it has."

        `In rich countries, we call corruption "government" and it's less visible due to being in cahoots with the people who also own the media.`

        in rich countries, the rich manipulate the people into hating the government so that the corrupt wealthy can wire their money anywhere while the media cohorts make it look like the 'corruption' is just as bad as anywhere else. oh sure they'll mention the caymans or ireland or wherever when they really need to, but they al

    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      You have it backwards.

      Corruption == Poor Country

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Corruption? I didn't see any mention of it in either the two-part New York Times piece or the article linked from India's Economic Times. Or is it automatically assumed that when a project of this nature fails in India corruption has to be the cause?

  • "We had to send daily reports to the CEO, which would in turn justify our salary. Failure to do so meant a deduction in that days's wage," said a vice president, who resigned on the same grounds.

    Any company that responds to crisis like that was never going to make it anyways.

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