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Is India ready to manufacture hardware? Notion Ink's CEO on Adam's tribulations
We’re all proud of the Indian tech startup - Notion Ink - and its Adam tablet. Competing against the Californian giant, Apple, and its now wildly successful iPad was never going to be a simple feat, but the brilliantly specced Adam gave the critics pause, realising that it indeed was a serious contender in the global tablet market, and one of Android’s major hopes in the segment. Unfortunately, the Adam was a little too slow out of the stables, facing delays with Flash and Nvidia Tegra 2 issues, and let the iPad take a massive lead in the race.
Currently headquartered in Bangalore, Notion Ink was established in Hyderabad in May 2009, with the sole purpose of creating Adam. Digit's Nash David recently spoke with Notion Ink’s founder and CEO, Rohan Shravan, and learnt much about how the company managed to develop a cutting edge tablet like the Adam in the Indian environment, and the many challenges they faced here. Their perspective is certainly unique, gained trying to make a place in the almost non-existent Indian computer hardware industry, which unlike China is still unable to pull off cheap manufacturing due to its lack of the necessary infrastructure, incentives and skilled labour. These problems are unfortunately symptomatic of the absence of focussed vision from the Indian government, which metaphorically but undeniably, is unable to provide the oxygen for the acetylene torch of hardware development. Active, well-planned steps are now the order of the day, supporting and nourishing the nascent industry.
Though he maintained the current environment was infinitely better than back in the 90s, Shravan made it clear that mindsets still need to change before the ecosystem will improve, “especially on the product side”. Painting a vivid picture of the Indian scenario, Shravan said:
“Everyone says, India needs to manufacture, but when it actually comes to it, they back off. Manufacturing is too costly, too expensive, and too risky. It’s extremely difficult for a start-up to raise funds in consumer electronics space. Consumer electronics move very fast, if one has idea, the time to implement and gain market is so very small, and all the time in Indian environment would be spent in conveying the differentiation, which is again tough given the awareness for quality products and a decade of delay in technology adoption...”
Revealing that the Adam has been in development for nearly three years now, Shravan also spoke about how expensive it was finding the resources to develop hardware and software for Android within India. Instead, Notion Ink took an innovative step to jumpstart indigenous development, training students of engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh:
“We take care of their courses, examination preparation and in return we get complete infrastructure. It’s a win win. We get virtually free resources that we trained (in far better industrial standards) the way we wanted (with friends working in Infosys, Accenture, Oracle and likes) and college gets the far superior education for their students, visibility and latest technology!”
After all this preparation, if you are wondering where the Notion Ink Adam tablet is, and when it will finally come out, you are not alone. But we won’t have to wait much longer, for the Adam is on its way, and will arrive by around November. We also learnt that Notion Ink has other tablets up its sleeve, as well as “an accompanying device which has a smaller form factor (and can act as a phone as well)”. Things are certainly looking up for India now, with path-breakers like Notion Ink stirring up the ranks.
You can find our interview with Notion Ink'sRohan Shravan in its entirety on the next page, where he spoke with Digit's Nash David about the various challenges faced by the company, as well as the genesis, vision and future of Notion Ink...
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