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Datawind insists $42 tab isn't Chinese

Components of subsidised slabs come from China, but assembly done in India

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British tech firm Datawind has been forced to deny reports from India at the weekend that its low-cost Aakash 2 device, marketed as an innovative locally-made product, was actually bought off-the-shelf from China.

The Hindustan Times, citing an unnamed source, claimed that DataWind had no role in the design or manufacturing of the tablet, for which the Indian government has placed an order for 100,000 units, with the intention of empowering students and closing the huge digital divide in the country.

The article alleges that Datawind bought more than 10,000 ‘A-13’ tablets from four manufacturers in Shenzhen and Hong Kong between 26 October and 7 November for $42 a piece – the same price it is flogging them to the Indian government for.

The device was unveiled by Indian president Pranab Mukherjee on 11 November.

Documents seen by HT apparently show that the tablets came from Dasen International Electronics, Shenzhen Shitong Zhaoli Technology, Kalong Technology and Trend Grace Ltd.

However, Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli has tried to nip the mini-crisis in the bud, claiming that the report is “inaccurate and misleading”, according to EE Times India.

"For the first 10,000 units for the Indian Institute of Technology, and for expediency sake we had the motherboards and kits manufactured in our Chinese subcontractor's facilities, and then the units have been 'kitted' in China at various manufacturers for expediency, whereas the final assembly and programming has happened in India," he said.

“We also have four partner manufacturers across India that will work on the deliveries to the government but we just couldn't get them started to assemble our new Aakash-2 units in time, but they will start to ship early in December."

Datawind will be hoping the new devices get a better reception than the low-specced Aakash tablets it launched around a year ago.

The Indian government’s ambitious plans to roll-out hundreds of thousands of low-cost computing devices never really got off the ground at the time after a disagreement between Datawind and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jodhpur stalled shipments. ®

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