The personal computer is closer to the common man today than it ever was. HCL Infosystems has introduced a PC at Rs 9,990 (before taxes) with a view to taking the PC war to the ‘bottom of the pyramid’.
Launching the ‘HCL’s PC for India’ in Chennai on August 1, Union IT and Communications Minister Dayanidhi Maran expressed optimism that more companies would follow HCL with low cost PCs, leading to the government’s target of a PC penetration of 75 million of 2010 being met.
Ajai Chowdhry, Chairman and CEO, HCL Infosystems Ltd, said, “Most of the existing low-cost PCs in the market are either stripped down versions or made of poor quality or counterfeit components. HCL’s PC for India for the first time will offer PC in the sub-10 K price bracket without compromising on quality and functionality. The PC will be backed by HCL brand assurances built over 30 years of its operations in India and countrywide support.”
He added that the product would cater to two-thirds of the PC market, which was at the bottom of the pyramid, with a huge chunk of the Indian population earning less than Rs 6,000 per month.
The company would try to educate consumers through its ‘Best Assured’ education programme, Chowdhry added, to ensure that they did not compromise on product quality or specifications while making their first IT purchase.
The newly launched PC will run on a Linux operating system and will support all standard applications like word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, web browsing, emails and audio-video playback. The product will have a 1 GHz processor, 128 MB RAM, 40 GB HDD, 15” digital colour monitor, 52X optical drive, keyboard and scroll mouse.
Meanwhile, Maran was optimistic that this was the start of a trend. He said, “Usually, Indian companies react to world leaders’ changes. This time an Indian company has taken the lead and is letting the world know that we can give the world an affordable PC that doesn’t compromise on quality.”
The minister further said that the present levels of PC and Internet penetration of 15 million and 5 million, respectively, was far from adequate for the population of 1.1 billion. The targets set by the government, he said, were 75 million PC users and 45 million Internet users by 2010. According to him, the ideal way to reach the PC penetration target was through low-cost PCs.
The new PC will also come with multilingual fonts. The Tamil version of the fonts has already been launched, and Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam versions would follow soon.
Besides the focus on ensuring IT equipment at schools, Maran said that low-cost PCs would have a major role in the government’s plans to set up common service centres (CSC) in 1 lakh villages by 2007. Through the setting up of one CSC for every six villages, the government’s intent to bring about effective e-governance would be furthered, he affirmed.
The government, however, has not introduced any additional subsidy to encourage the low-cost PCs. HCL Infosystems is confident that it will make up for the cost reductions through increased volumes.
HCL had launched a PC priced at Rs 12, 990, though with lesser features, in December 2004. The company continues with the joint programmes it launched jointly with state-owned telecom giant BSNL to bundle PCs with broadband services.
In reaching out to rural India, the company has foreseen the possibility of power fluctuations and cuts, and developed a UPS-type gadget. Using the gadget, the PC can be run with a car battery for eight hours.
It is going to be a tougher decision to splurge on a high-end camera mobile now, with a PC being made available at the same, or a lesser cost!