Dhiren Kapadia, who runs a travel agency in Mumbai, bought a Reliance Tab last month. “I couldn’t afford a device that costs upwards of Rs 25,000, and in addition to the charges of data usage,” he says. Kapadia zeroed on the Reliance Tab, that cost him Rs 12,999 and for Rs 4,500 as advance annual data rental, he is now entitled to 1 GB 3G data per month. “It’s a very affordable deal for me,” Kapadia says.
There are many buyers like Kapadia in the market looking for tablet PCs who see sense in investing in a low-cost tablet. That’s what is keeping vendors like Datawind, Milagrow, Spice, Beetel, HCL, Reliance and Lenovo, among others, optimistic. According to CMR data, Indian consumers will buy around 85,000 tablet PCs in 2012, and already the market has attracted over 15 players with their tablet PC models.
The cheapest of the lot is Datawind’s Aakash tablet, priced at nearly Rs 1,800 albeit for student buyers. Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind reasons, “The multimedia experience, fast Internet and the price is what makes Aakash different from others.” The company, informs Tuli, has rejected a few bulk orders from business houses and will build its name first in the education sector before diversifying. A commercial version of the tablet PC called Ubislate, approximately priced at Rs 3000, is expected to hit stores and e-commerce portals by January 2012.
Customers may not be lining up for low-cost tablet PCs yet but large electronics retailstores like Croma insist it is too early to gauge its effect. Ajit Joshi, CEO and MD of Infiniti Retail (Croma) points “While Apple and Samsung lead the market, the low-cost tablet PCs offer a choice to customers according to their budgets.”
The bigger challenge that low-cost tablet PC vendors face is to please customers like Shahana Swami, management student at Mumbai’s K J Somaiya college. Swami believes that most people these days have a laptop or a desktop. “If I want a tablet PC, I would rather go for a premium brand since for me owning a tablet is more of a luxury than a need,” she reasons.
New entrants like Milagrow’s TabTop maintain that they are not pitching their products to individual customers like Swami. Rajeev Karwal, founder and CEO, Milagrow says, “We are focusing on the professional segment. We are confident of gaining about 10 per cent of the Rs 15 million tablet PC market by 2015.” Milagrow, in fact, is in talks with some large format hospital chains for healthcare automation, companies for sales force automation as well as with the hospitality industry. Karwal claims that on e-commerce sites like Letsbuy.com and Flipkart.com, the brand sells three to four units a day. “We have sold over 300 units (to end customers) since our launch, and shipped around 1,000 units to retailers.”
But Spice Mobility’s newest tablet PC, MiTab which retails for Rs 12,990, is netting young customers like Swami with its low-cost offering. B K Modi, chairman, Spice Mobility, estimates to capture 15 per cent of the total tablet market by 2015. “We are targeting the youth and to market our product we will focus on the digital medium,” Modi says.
Are customers even looking at tablet PCs from Spice, HCL or Milagrow? “I have been going to electronic retail stores for two months now and still haven’t figured out what to buy,” says Prateek Kulkarni, father of a 19-year-old teenage boy who insists on having a tablet PC. Kulkarni lists that all his friends have recommended the Samsung Galaxy tab (a 7-inch model that retails at about Rs 24,799) or the Apple iPad (costs upwards of Rs 29,000).
While he did use brands like HCL, Beetel and Spice tablet PCs at stores, he wasn't impressed. “A tablet PC is not a laptop replacement and my son will soon demand a laptop when he’s through with the tablet PC craze,” he says. What Kulkarni needs, he says is a cheaper alternative that does not compromise on quality, design, browsing and multimedia features.
Lenovo’s IdeaPad range is hoping to sway buyers like Kulkarni with its IdeaPad , which series starts at Rs 16,990. Rajesh Thadani, director (consumer business Segment), Lenovo India says, “We have ensured that they are available in over 700 Lenovo retail stores across the country. In the next six months, we will introduce tablet PCs of varying sizes and platforms to cater to individual needs of the customers.”
Clearly at this point in the tablet PC market, the old adage applies — you get what you pay for.