Early last year, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Selligion Technologies co-founders Naman Chakraborty, Yoshita Sengupta, Joby John and Puneet Raheja observed how early smartphones promised to bridge the gap. Covid’s learning for children is far from computers. instead they thought it would be. This led to the idea of developing “Praho”, a cloud-based kid-friendly computer that will be offered with a monthly subscription fee before the end of the year, lowering the barrier to entry for consumers by How to subsidize hardware costs.
“Indians may not pay for an app but they have been paying for cable TV since the 90s and then they switched to Tata sky,” COO Sengupta explains the reasoning behind the subscription-based model for Praho and why it can work in India. “I don’t think the subscription model matters in India as long as the service or product provides value for money,” she said. indianexpress.com in an interview.
The consumer PC market is crowded, but the Mumbai-based startup is betting on a unique sales strategy that it hopes will become a trendsetter and expand its penetration. PC imports, among the lowest in the world. The company will charge Rs 399 a month to allow people to register the computer. However, they will have to pay Rs 3600 as a one-time payment as a precaution.
In the consumer electronics space, the subscription model is still new and something many companies don’t do. GoPro has tried out this model, and initial reception has been encouraging. But Sengupta believes it is solving a larger problem of “mainstream” PCs that have not happened in India despite the promises of PC brands and chip makers in the past.
The story is for subscribers only
To be fair, for many Indians, smartphones are the default computing device due to the accessibility offered by affordable mobile data plans and reduced hardware costs. “People who have smartphones, don’t have computers because they can’t afford to buy them. It’s not because they don’t want to,” John added, adding that price is the biggest barrier preventing the average consumer in India from buying a PC.
The question of why PCs haven’t grown like smartphones in India has gone unanswered for a decade now. Sengupta says smartphone boom since 2017 is due to Reliance [Jio] understand the price treatment of an average Indian from a budgeting point of view. “The problem here is perhaps the entry barrier of Rs 20,000 may not be suitable for parents who need to choose between tutoring training plus education fees plus bus and uniform fare, ‘ said Sengupta.
She hopes a monthly model where customers pay a single fee and have access to a computer is essential to bringing computers to the masses. “All we are doing right now, to start with, is reducing the entry barrier and the exit barrier to Rs 399,” she added.
Work on Praho began when Chakraborty created the first prototype of the device on cardboard after the second blockade. The device’s current shape is triangular, and Sengupta says this could change as PCs start being marketed. The computer is 20 cm tall and weighs only 175 grams. Chakraborty wanted their first consumer computer to look different, which Jony Ive also did when designing the iMac G3, which was more of a statement with a transparent plastic design. “We wanted to make a difference in terms of visibility; it’s really like shelf space in a supermarket,” says Sengupta about why Praho has a unique design.
During the early design phase, Chakraborty and his team worked on many prototypes and tried different materials. “We drew the device by hand, cut it out of chipboard and made a version,” she says. But one parent’s response was that the edges were too sharp for a child to hold the device, and Sengupta admits not everyone likes it. The team has returned to the drawing board, this time with the intention of making the device child-safe. The team then received a 3D printed prototype in Goregaon at a cost of Rs 4 lakh.
Sengupta and John are reluctant to reveal the processors that will power Praho as an ongoing shortage of semiconductors makes it very difficult for companies to buy chips on a large scale. Internally, the startup tested Praho with the Raspberry Pi, which is a great embedded computer board for education and prototyping. “Raspberry Pi has had supply chain issues and how irregular they are in production,” she explains, adding that the company has tested the device with manufacturers. and different Single Tablet Computer (SBC) vendors.
On the software side, things get really interesting. The company tested a version of Praho with a dual OS, featuring a custom Linux OS and a Windows Cloud OS. An icon on a custom Linux OS that allows users to access the Window Cloud OS. Sengupta says the custom Linux operating system also works offline. Essentially, users will be able to use dual OS in one piece of hardware, offered at Rs 399 a month for the trial.
But what does cloud computing really mean? “Enter your phone number, get OTP, and access Windows Cloud Devices,” she explains in a simple way. But John admits there are challenges for CloudOS, which is a dual version of the internet-only cloud, which can be a problem in a market like India. “The cloud service operating system is not something that India or we want to build, we first want to make sure that the device is functional, easy to use and inexpensive…
The true cost of using a cloud-based computer versus a completely offline PC for a day is completely different,” he added.
Sengupta and other co-founders at Selligion Technologies took on the challenge of designing and building computers from scratch when there were hardly any local PC brands left in India.
“Getting into hardware is a capital-intensive business,” admits Sengupta, adding that persuading venture capitalists and securing capital can be a challenge if you are in hardware manufacturer in India. “Building hardware is not attractive from an investment standpoint; it’s not very fast, on the scale that’s what they [VCs] believe,” she said.