I am Saurabh Adhikari and I don't think there is ANY reason to believe marketing of OLPC in India will cost any less than the budget set aside by HP, Dell, or Microsoft. But OLPC India has been running on the resources of one person, Satish Jha, who left his American job and now must be finding it hard to meet the challenges of working in India without any resource. If only Nicholas Negroponte understood that and realized that the first job of a CEO or a Chairman is to get the funding right, just like he must have done to develop the whole OLPC project, India would have been way ahead on the OLPC curve
A typical single product organization for a large multinational outfit in India runs on an annual budget of a couple million dollars. Had OLPC India started with those resources, had deployed the first 1000 for a demonstration in the first couple of months of opening their offices in India, by now they will have deployed a couple million laptops in India alone. The government of Kerala ordered for 150,000 children in early 2009 and so did the government of Manipur order 75000 in March 2009. The Govt of Himachal ordered for 250,000 in June 2010 and there were several offers to place order by a few other states.
To do a business the governments need some credible organization that has a financial track record that can be presented to get past the established criteria. If a company has a balance sheet of $1 million, it will hardly expect to get an order for $10 million. OLPC India managed to get these orders despite hurdles every step of the way. What was important is that the governments were willing to see its innovative nature and buy it without going through the tendering process. But the dozens of things to be handled after the order were unlikely for an organization that has zero financial support and runs on volunteers alone.
In the case of govt of Manipur delays seemed to have occurred because OLPC would not guarantee anything, would not collateralize the letter of credit, took several months just going through the Letter of credit until the govt of Manipur gave an ultimatum that they will not give any more extensions and blacklist the organization. Altogether, while OLPC could have easily handled the order in 3 to 4 months, its organizational weakness just as the lack of familiarity with OLPC in the state government and took some 23 months to execute the order.
I think OLPC should invest in India just like any other organization, give its India head a couple million dollar marketing and logistics budget, find people who can run the process gamut, find banks that will give the guarantees that the governments need as a matter of the routine and create at least 4 or 5 demo sites of 1000 children each in north, east, west and south and the center of India and OLPC will have changed the way children study and realized its own dream faster than it can imagine.
The $35 laptop looks more like a reaction to Negroponte than than a serious venture because he seemed to have ticked off some people in the country by not trying to listen to them and instead being in a telling mode. India has proved over the past several decades that it will live with less but will not be dictated to. The corporations that have succeeded in India have worked hard to adapt to the local challenges. OLPC seems to believe its a panacea and the world should adapt to it. Unfortunately, while everyone recognizes its revolutionary potential, few are willing to do everything OLPC should be doing to make its dream possible.