Wednesday, October 5, 2011

India Launches Aakash, World’s Cheapest Tablet Computer, But Faces Criticism Over Outsourcing Manufacturing and Tech Support

DELHI, India (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- India launched what it deemed the world’s most inexpensive tablet computer Wednesday. The Aakash, which means “sky” in Hindi, will be sold at a subsidized price of $35 to students and later in stores for $60. Most of the country’s 1.2 billion people live in poverty. Products such as Google’s Chromebook and Apple’s iPad remain far out of reach for the average consumer. “The rich have access to the digital world, the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide,” Telecoms and Education Minister Kapil Sibal said.

Interestingly, India, one of the world’s most successful outsourcers of cheap technology labor, admitted itself to offshoring the production of Aakash in order to keep the costs low. “To achieve our goal of creating a full service computing device at this price, we realized that we had to find cheaper resources,” Sibal added. “Manufacturing of Aakash takes place in Greece, where we purchased a warehouse and two thousand workers for about 400 euros. Also, technical support will be provided by call centers located in the United States, where the minimum wage is much more affordable.”

Critics, however, have chided India’s decision to utilize U.S. based call centers. Anupa Chitrangda, a student who is already using her Aakash tablet at university, complained, “I understand that it’s cheaper for India to use American tech support, but the level of service is dreadful. We call them and they take forever to answer. When they get on the phone, it is impossible to understand what they are saying; their accents are so heavy. You try to explain the problem, and they just direct you to reboot the device. Their small talk is absurd, constantly asking us about the weather or our day. Do they not understand the computers they are supporting? Do they not understand our culture? Our days are spent wandering filthy streets lacquered with feces and vomit and dead monkeys. But the worst part is when they try to mimic our accents. One man I spoke to told me his name was Raghavendra. It was just insulting. I bet he’s called Brad at home. When he asked my name, I said it was Wendy. He replied, ‘Right on.’ Right on what? What does that mean? I don’t know if the Aakash is even worth the $35 if they don’t take care of the customer service issues.”

(c) 2011. See disclaimers.

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