Bridging the Digital Divide: Connecting the Unconnected!
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Bridging the Digital Divide: Connecting the Unconnected!

While it is a major challenge to provide most affordable technology and connectivity to the people of India, DataWind is driving the cost downward to a level where access to technology becomes ‘universally affordable’ and democratisation of technology finds its true meaning.

With a mission to break the affordability barrier and to make up for the network deficit in the Telecom industry, Suneet Singh Tuli, the engineering graduate from the University of Toronto and President and CEO of DataWind looks for ways for bridge the digital divide. He, along with his brother, Raja Tuli, who later took after their engineer father, developed the world’s largest fax machine and smallest digital scanner, both of which were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Debunking old myths and proving that India can export competitively while improving the energy security in the country rounds up Tuli’s commitment toward changing the lives of people in India. “That’s what our brand is all about. Providing internet free or at a minimal price, is my motto,” he says. DataWind began humbly, but with the introduction of Aakash and its further improvement over the last two years, it has successfully integrated technology with social innovation. Retailer magazine discussed a plethora of themes with Tuli ahead of DataWind’s third manufacturing facility that is coming up in Bihar.

How do you think digital and internet divide can be addressed through technology and low cost devices?
There are over 4 billion digitally disenfranchised citizens of the world (in India, close to a billion alone, who are the forgotten ones) – ones who are yet to join the internet age or are yet to experience empowerment and freedom that comes with immense knowledge accessible through the Internet.
In India the internet penetration levels are abysmally low at about 100 million which is perhaps less than 10 per cent of the total population or marginally higher than 10 per cent if one was to consider the 950 (plus) million cellular subscribers. We firmly believe that this digital and internet divide can be addressed through technology intervention, at an affordable price for this segment of customers. We are striving for newer ‘lows’ in price discovery for computing and access products. This has been our mission since we started to make India Digitally free and that’s the reason why we are addressing this market.

How will you bridge the digital divide by making your business economically viable, like Chinese manufacturers?
DataWind’s innovative business model involves using low cost tablet computers and smart-phones as customer acquisition tools to offer mobile internet access content and applications. This is the mission as well as major challenge to provide most affordable technology and connectivity to the people of India. This is how we have detailed our customers by providing them quality product with free internet browsing for 1 year.
Customers enter into transactions with us for the value we deliver to them. The customer wants affordable solutions and we deliver it! Our technology gives us the ability to offer ‘optimised’ products that is not only great on value and price but also representative of high-end technology.  We’ve consistently demonstrated the company’s endeavour to breach affordability barriers for our customers.
We are driven by our vision to bridge the digital divide and we will do that by creating access and reach through our devices. Our brand promise is to offer a ubiquitous mobile solution that stands on two firm pillars of technology and affordability. This year, we would be introducing new and latest technology to our products in order to grow like the launch of the most economical 4G phone, Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Machine to Machine (M2M) software to provide the most affordable and quality products to our customer.

What is your current distribution in brick and mortar space?
We have 1200 retail stores throughout India where we sell the products. They are supported by 250 field officers, 34 area managers and 4 regional managers. The goal is to increase two thousand field officers and reach over 100,000 retail stores by end of this year. In future, we are looking to set up new facility in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.

Will you use the funding secured from the Toronto Stock Exchange in setting up these manufacturing facilities?
Yes, we have raised funding of Rs.165 crore in an IPO on Toronto Stock Exchange. We are looking to come up with 3 new facilities in India to further push ‘Make in India’.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in scaling -up? How are you addressing it?
The challenge is the fragmented nature of the Indian retail distribution and by increasing the size of the field organization to support such retailers is how we are addressing it.


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