Technology companies from the western world should stop thinking of India as a place to dump low-cost, low-tech versions of their products, says one of the country's senior technologists. Ajay Gupta, who leads the Indian labs of Hewlett Packard, argues that India is ready for innovative and high-value products.
If Gupta is correct, India could become a booming new market for high-tech companies, with more than a billion potential consumers.
Intel is one company that is taking the Indian market seriously. The chip maker recently announced a computer designed specifically for that emerging market. The Intel Community PC is designed to withstand the dust, humidity and erratic power supply that might damage other computers used in India. It runs on open-source software and is capable of connecting to the Internet wirelessly or through the GSM phone system. It will be manufactured in India and will retail at a cost of US$400.
However, high-tech manufacturers hoping to tap the potentially lucrative Indian market must solve a variety of challenges first. For example, only 5% of the population is computer literate. Also, QWERTY-style keyboards designed for the English language may not be appropriate for Hindi dialects.
HP may have cracked the language issue with the specially designed Gesture Keyboard (GSK), which is simple to use, costs only US$53 and is compatible with any Windows is Linux computer.
HP and other companies that can respond to India's unique challenges could enjoy potentially huge rewards.