While the iPad was launched in the US and other select countries, developing countries such as India are yet to get a first glimpse of the iPad. Only some tech savvy upper class types have been able to lay their hands on the iPad, by buying from the US or Europe. But the developing countries are not to be left out of the tablet game all together, with many of them bringing out their own tablet PCs. Once the initial hype subsides the new devices will have to face challenges that are characteristic of individual markets. What factors will decide their success or failure in the Indian market?
Developing countries like India already have prototypes of tablet PCs designed and manufactured locally and more in the pipeline—tailored to suit the local market. Affordability will be a major concern in this price sensitive market.
The ‘Palaka’, meaning slate, by elLoka is due to come out in prototype form in September. It will have two choices for OS: the company’s patented operating system and Android. The tentative price is USD 150 (INR 7,000), which is quite affordable compared with brand name alternatives.
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Some tablets that are popular in the West are being customized to suit other markets in developing countries. Meet the recently launched iProf! This is a customized version of the Archos tablet. This Android based tablet PC has a 7-inch touch screen and is aimed at students preparing for the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). In India, any device designed to help students would be attractive. Focus on content could be an interesting angle.
The iProf offers lessons, exercises and videos for the entrance exam, and there are plans to expand their services to offer study material for other competitive exams such as the Common Admission Test (CAT), Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) and Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Students can update the content by visiting the study zones in any of the 20 e-learning centres in India. The device costs USD 320 (INR 14900). While its cost is on the higher side, the quality of content could very well compensate for this.
‘Content is king’ seems to be the mantra for Notion Ink, makers of the Indian made tablet PC, Adam, who consider their brand as an international one. According to co-founder Rohan Shravan, emerging markets are likely to follow trends in developed markets. Shravan thinks that the focus of these devices will be content. Notion Ink has plans to introduce superior content for its tablet PC. They will focus on the publishing industry and would like to spearhead this revolution. According to Shravan, pricing may vary depending on the target group.
Rohit Rathi of Notion Ink thinks that the success of the tablet PC will depend on Internet connectivity in each country. In India, Internet connectivity is not reliable. “The government should join hands with technology companies and improve the connectivity,” he told Silicon India. The fact that tablet PCs are not manufactured in India will make these products more expensive in the country. These factors could apply to other developing countries as well. This may give an upper hand to Indian manufacturers who can offer tablet PCs at more affordable prices.
The tablet PC market in India could be a fertile market for the Chinese shanzhai, who managed to infiltrate the Indian mobile handset market with cheap handset models, offering a huge variety of features and clones of popular brands. These handsets created a niche for themselves, though limited to grey markets in the country. Learning from their experience in the mobile handset market, it is possible that the shanzhai can make their mark in India again with tablet PCs.
According to International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide media tablet shipments will grow from 7.6 million units in 2010 to more than 46 million units in 2014. Susan Kevorkian, program director, digital marketplace: mobile media & entertainment, IDC said, “IDC expects consumer demand for media tablets to be strongly driven by the number and variety of compatible third-party apps for content and services.” Many tablet manufacturers have their plans ready for wooing the Indian market with complete packages including media and content.
Research firm Gartner thinks that tablet PC shipments could reach 10.5 million for traditional tablets and next-generation tablet devices worldwide in 2010. A market study by In-Stat projected the potential unit total available market (TAM) for tablets to be about 50 million in 2014. However, according to In-Stat, the success of tablet PCs will depend on providing the content as well as wireless services, and combining applications and services to provide a complete package.
ABI Research senior analyst Jeff Orr said, “A tablet will not replace a laptop, netbook or mobile phone, but will remain an additional premium or luxury product for wealthy industrialized markets for at least several years.”
In the immediate future, an upper middle class or upper class Indian will be a likely target for a tablet PC as a ‘nice to have’ device. But, packaged with the right content, and priced suitably, it can penetrate the less affluent rungs of Indian society as well and carve a niche for itself in India as a ‘must have’ device.