OLPC Needs to Invest in Marketing for OLPC India Success


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

Satish Jha of OLPC India

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.


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Sounds like the actual sales contracts need to be with the manufacturers in Taiwan and China. OLPC Boston would then just act as a booster club and a research centre, developing the next version and owning the trademark but little more.

Even better if OLPC license the design to three different manufacturers, like ARM does with processors.

That is exactly the model that OLPC has! The OLPC Foundation in Boston works with Quanta Computer, Inc., to design the hardware and with the open source community to develop the software. Countries making a large enough purchase deal directly with Quanta to purchase the laptop. The non-profit OLPC Association, based out of Miami, provides sales, logistics and support for most laptop purchasers (outside of India and China).

I like the idea that OLPC India would succeed if only OLPC devoted as much money to "sales" in that country as it used to develop the laptop. The idea was to make the best laptop, using the least power, available for the lowest price. Hopefully, others will imitate.

Unfortunately, the $35 laptop project is a joke.

But we would love it if India would pull together and make a $70 rugged, low power laptop. Really! Just do it!
Hell, the OLPC Association would probably want to sell it to the rest of the world!

I would love to talk to any Indian design teams working in this space, to share what OLPC has learned. Improving a design doesn't have to add cost.

Now the fun begins.

Portugal's Megalhas has signed an MoU with Educomp of India to produce cheap laptops.

OLPC has not even managed to give 1000 laptops to make a showcase and the Portuguese are investing big time in India as it is the largest emerging market for school education.

OLPC believes its the last answer to the emancipation of the underprivileged children.

But those who keep them underprivileged, the politicians and the bureaucrats, have little interest in doing good.

Megalhas understood that and went for a market based approach and now OLPC will have a competition that its non-profit entirely funded in India by poor Mr Satish Jha will not be able to cope with.

With all our passion we cannot do what resources can.

A CEO of OLPC must raise funds to market, make it visible, do what it takes to persuade people, respond to the genuine questions and concerns of people. Simply doing a great job, changing the way computing works for schools or starting the netbook revolution would not change the lives of children in developing countries.

What OLPC in India needs is some serious showcasing with 1000 laptops working in the constituency that its education minister wants asap since the day he took charge.

Is OLPC ready?

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