Tablet Market Is Too Big For One Product To Rule: Notion Ink Founder
Bangalore-based Notion Ink has finally started shipping Adam, a 10.1 inch tablet PC with a PixelQi screen and a NVidia Tegra 250 processor. There are 4 versions of the tablet PC - the basic version with an LCD screen costs $399 and the one with the PixelQi screen, Wi-Fi /3G costs $498. Yes, all the prices are in dollars because USA is the target market. While Adam has a huge fan following for bringing innovations in the form of their custom UI 'Eden' and the latest specs to the evolving tablet PC segment, very little is known about the company - and the face - behind it. We at Techcircle.in bring you a quick, uncut interview with Rohan Shravan, the young and blunt founder of Notion Ink.
Shravan, a graduate of one of India's elite engineering schools IIT Kharagpur, answered our questions about the struggle so far, the criticism being piled on, other tablet PCs such as Samsung Galaxy Tab, OlivePad and ofcourse the iPad 2, what's Reliance Industries' relationship with Notion Ink, and the strain of being an entrepreneur in India.
How have things been going at Notion Ink since its inception? What were your milestones? It's been a roller coaster ride since conceptualisation in 2007 and since then we have learnt a lot. We released the first prototype at CES 2010 and the second prototyope at Mobile World Congress 2010. There were some financial challenges between March and June last year. We initiated a new project in July 2010. The first manufacturing sample was made in November 2010 and in CES January 2011, the first world hands-on review was done.
What was the biggest challenge? Being a product company in India and handling cash flow. Consumer electronics is extremely cash intensive and we have to be extremely innovative in every single decision. Technological advantages are fine, but they have to be presented in good business sense.
What were the bottlenecks you faced along the way, as an entrepreneur in India? I wasted 6 months with National Institute of Design and Technopreneur Promotion Programme, developing a design team and raising initial money. The Indian academia is still not mature enough to raise business firms and institutions which help financing are not technologically mature and lack discipline.
How is Notion Ink funded? We have angel investors and private equity.
Last year, there were rumours that Reliance was in talks to pick up a majority stake in Notion Ink. What was that about? Reliance and Notion Ink are extremely good partners, but that's where it ends.
Who else has shown interest in the company? A lot of top VCs and investment firms.
Who are your mentors? My mom. She has always inspired me and taught me that smart hard-work is the only key to a good journey, successful or not.
What has been the investment so far in Notion Ink? How much have you spent and can you share a breakdown? We can not reveal this information in public yet. We will have to wait for a while for this information.
Crunchgear reports that there have been too many payment hiccups. What caused them? What are the steps you are taking to resolve them? There are too many critics right now. Some believe we are too good to be true. Some want to write us off. As a company we have tried to keep extremely low profile, but they have always dragged us in discussions. Notion Ink has ardent followers and fans, and they keep the blog and communities (Notioninkhacks.com, Notionaddicts.com, Notioninkfan.com) alive. Probably this following has a lot to do with critics who don't understand us.
In the article, they tag you with a Steve Jobs complex - what is your response to it? Steve Jobs is a phenomenon in this industry. I am still a kid, any comparison is rather immature. On the contrary we don't keep a lot of secrets.
Who is your role model in the tech world? Edison and Nikola Tesla. Edison was extremely famous for his business sense, and Tesla wasn't but the boldness of Tesla had its own impact on the world.
What do you think of the tablet PCs being launched in India? There are 3 generations of tablets. Media players, content consuming devices and content creation devices. Currently the tablets in India are just media players. Adam is more aimed at content creation and content consumption level.
More specifically, what do you think of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the OlivePad? Are they competition? They are too big for us to even affect their sales.
Are you worried about iPad2? Not really. The market is too big for one product to rule. And we are here for decades to come, so we want to take our time to become threat to anyone.
What are your plans going ahead - how do you plan to scale up the company? Are there plans to sell it? Right now we are into the process of scaling up and looking for more talent, investor groups for their experience, partnerships and collaboration. Selling is out of question.
How many employees do you have? What are your hiring plans for the year? We can't disclose the exact numbers, but this month we added around 20 more.
Are you targeting India as a primary market or USA? US is our primary market. India will take its time to understand the concept of tablets and its need.
What has been the customer feedback to Adam so far? Feedback is very encouraging. All the customers want to help us in making Eden more stable and are extremely active in their videos while unboxing or demos.
Who is your target customer - are you looking at rural India at all? Those who love to create content on fly are our target customers. Rural India is not our target. Price is a big factor there.
As an entrepreneur that has eyes all over the world on you, are you uncomfortable or do you enjoy the limelight? I have no idea. I just love to communicate with all, understand their ideas and work on our dream. More visibility is ensuring that we don't default on deliveries and that's good for our DNA.
What is the advice you would give other entrepreneurs? What you are doing MUST come naturally to you. And the last advice is - hang on!