The Aakash tablet has been the most ambitious project taken up by the Indian government to impart tech based education in schools and colleges. This low-budget tablet lets us realise the dream of the $35 laptop that we’ve been yearning for a while now. It appeared as a miracle child, and the most highlighted aspect was its price – Rs. 2,500 for Aakash and Rs. 2,999 for the Ubislate (upgraded Aakash). Yes, that price is unbeatable. While everyone focused on the price, there were few who may have wondered what the build quality or performance of the tablet would be like. The tablet was an educational initiative, but the overwhelming response soon made Datawind put up a few units of the Aakash and commercial Aakash tablet dubbed Ubislate tablets on the store shelves. The Aakash sold out within a week but Ubislate and its different versions continued to be on display.
The scene for the Aakash tablet soon turned sour and ugly, as it received flak for its build quality and performance by its users. It didn’t take much time for Datawind to turn from a name of admiration to something that was splashed with controversies. Aakash was soon caught up in a slew of issues like delay in shipments, consumer complaints, blame game with IIT Jodhpur and its assembler Quad Electronics and reams were written down about how the Aakash has failed us. Today, the Aakash tablet is no less than a subject of mockery. But the question is what about the millions of pre-orders that the tablet has received? Along with defects in the device and a non-responsive customer care, the most common complaint is that the device is not reaching its customers, even to those who have already paid for it well in advance and several months ago.
A student with the Aakash
Is the commercial Aakash tablet reaching users?
If one runs through Consumer Court, GrahakSeva and several other forums, one will find that reams have been written down about how Datawind has not yet delivered the commercial Aakash/Ubislate tablet to its users. Several consumers feel cheated and believe that the Datawind customer care makes false promises about the delivery of the tablet. We spoke to a few users who have registered a complaint in the various consumer forums and this is what they had to say.
Kaushik D, who pre-booked the Ubislate 7+ (booking ID PM13B0488A04) in April and was promised delivery by end of May, hasn’t got the device yet. He paid in advance and sent several email to Datawind and the only reply he received was "the delivery is started you will be receiving next month."
“I asked for refund, but there is no reply and called them 15-20 times till now, but it is useless there is no response, one or two time they replied it will be delivered soon. Like me many people fell for that cheap tablet name and quick delivery mentioned on their website earlier. It has been four months and I am tired of calling them. People should know about this and stop sending advance payments and fall victim to the false misleading company,” Kaushik said.
Naveen Kumar (booking ID PM44CDB6609) had pre-ordered the Ubislate 7 on February 24 and has already paid for the device. Naveen has a trail of messages and umpteen false promises made by Datawind about the shipment dates to show, wherein Datawind has been saying the device will be received in 15-20 days from March.
“I was promised the device in 2 - 3 weeks many times but haven’t received it till now. Apart from the trail of emails, I have tried to phone numerous times but either the no is not reachable or there is no response,” Naveen said.
Aakash sold out within a week, Ubislate continued on display
Pradeep Kumar (booking ID PM6A669), who paid via cheque, got the Ubislate 7+ booked on Janury 24, 2012. The cheque was cleared long ago with still no sign of the tablet. After repeated attempts and emails, the company has yet again promised that the device will reach him his month, but hasn’t so far.
“I feel that I have made a mistake by booking Aakash tablet. I wanted to gift it to my brother on his birthday i.e. on 18 may but they didn't deliver it. Again i decided to gift it to my niece on her birthday i.e. on 27th june, but again i didn't get it. Now i have no other option other than sending emails as the I cant get through their numbers, they respond on monthly basis with an apology note. The latest one is that, they will surely deliver it in month of august. Hope for the best,” says Pradeep Kumar
The consumer court and other forums are filled with such complaints. These complaints range from just about everything - delay dilemmas, some who have received the device but haven’t got it started yet and others who are struggling for refund because they have decided to wait no more and don’t want their hard earned crisp green to be wasted. We also spoke to a customer who booked the Aakash with cash on delivery and is happy that he didn’t pay in advance and has now settled in for another tablet instead. Some more complaints are: “I ordered one late last year, with the promise of delivery sometime in January 2012, but haven’t received it yet," and “I ordered December 2011, Expected date of Delivery March '12, yet to receive it.”
So we decided to speak to Datawind to confirm about the number of Aakash/Ubilsates being shipped until now, the number of tablets it ships per month and what it thinks about the complaints that have been showing up about people claiming they haven’t received the Aakash/Ubislate yet. And this is what Datawind had to say:
"Commercial version of Aakash is called Ubislate which has two range – Ubislate 7+ and Ubislate 7C have received overwhelming response from the masses. We have received more than 3 million bookings of Ubislate Tablets so far. We have already started deliveries of Ubislate Tablet to the people who had booked online pre-paid. As you are aware that the public interest in the product is huge and we have bookings for more than 3 million units. Several tens of thousands of tablets have been reached to our customers so far. Heavy demands have delayed the supply, but this is also the success of the product and we are making all our efforts to meet the demand as soon as possible. It is not correct to say that Datawind’s tablet has not reached anyone.”
Mr. Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO, Datawind
So, tens of thousands of tablets have been shipped until now. Which means out of 3+ million pre-orders, it took nine months to ship tens of thousands of tablets. So, how much time would it take to reach the 3 million unit count? In India, price plays a vital role and it’s the price and a set of neat features (at least for that price) that allured users to give away their hard earned moolah for a tablet. Till the time the performance and shipment issues were raised, millions of users had pre-booked the Aakash/Ubislate. For refund, the customer has to send an email with booking details to email@example.com, but sending the email only once may not help much. Certainly, the number of pre-orders received may have been too much to handle, but Datawind surely needs to look into the consumer complaints of those who've pre-booked the device, paid for it and haven’t received it yet. In the entire episode, who do you think is at loss? We think it's neither the government nor Datawind.
If you have ordered the Aakash or Ubislate, then do share the experience with us in the comments section below.