Nano scientist to value-for-money tablet maker, Shripal Gandhi on SoftBank radar

By: | Updated: November 12, 2014 12:15 PM

Swipe Technologies founder & CEO Shripal Gandhi will be boarding a flight to Tokyo...

Swipe is the only start-up in devices category focused on tablet PCs with 80% of its revenues coming from tablets. Swipe is the only start-up in devices category focused on tablet PCs with 80% of its revenues coming from tablets.

Swipe Technologies founder & CEO Shripal Gandhi will be boarding a flight to Tokyo on an invitation from a prospective investor, SoftBank, later this month.

Swipe is one of the three companies to be invited to Tokyo for negotiations after 15 companies met SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son during his visit to India recently. All of them had three minutes to make their pitch. And Gandhi’s Swipe made the cut. Gandhi is not talking on this or willing to offer any other comment. But then, why SoftBank would have got interested in his two-year-old company is not hard to see.

Swipe is succeeding where many have tried and failed — to become a volume leader in tablet PCs. Swipe is the only start-up in devices category focused on tablet PCs with 80% of its revenues coming from tablets. Around 85% of the Swipe portfolio is tablets.

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The humble Akash tablet may have failed but it was the spark that triggered the nanotechnology scientist, his return to India from US and venture into this very space. Within two years, the Ichalkaranji, Kolhapu-born and brought up, UDCT, Mumbai, engineer with a degree from University of California in nanotechnology, Gandhi is now heading the tablet PC business with volumes growing at three digits.

Year one to two growth was 150% and this year ramp rate will be between 250% and 300% and a market share of 10% and 12%. Many of the customers are first time buyers in tier 2 and tier 3 cities who are picking tablet PCs instead of desktop PCs which is driving growth.

Swipe has the biggest portfolio of tablets — 32 — in the market including 27 unique ones such as the first 3D tablet to exclusive tablet for kids who want to chew on it while playing. Many of the Swipe products are attractively priced almost at one third the price of what competition offers with similar features.

Lessons learnt during stints with Motorola, Samsung and Apple in the US as a technology scientist filing patents ensured that Gandhi’s Swipe was not a ‘Me Too’ product and scored high on innovation and understanding on what the Indian customer wants. Swipe’s munition were disruptive technology, disruptive concept and disruptive price. The 3D tablet has sold one lakh units and is priced at Rs 3,999.

Similarly, to grow the brand, Swipe tied up with brands such as MTV for co-branded devices which has worked. Gandhi is a specialist in touchscreen technology and his experience with the complex structure for designing and developing as well as the global supply chain of the tablet ecosystem such as chipset makers, printed circuit boards and people into integration has ensured that the company is able to have a firm handle on costs. It is these cost savings that it is able to pass on to the customers and price the devices attractively.

The Swipe team has grown from four in July 2012 to 140 and a team dominated by product developers with an understanding of product development. Swipe first went into markets such as Rajasthan, Punjab and J&K and not the big metro markets so it has clear leadership in these markets. This was followed by entry into the West and South. Soon, Swipe will be going to Africa and West Asia. Swipe received Series A funding from Kalaari Capital of R30 crore in April 2014.

After demonstrating what it can do in the consumer space and building critical scale with revenues of R150 crore and above, the company is now leveraging these resources, reach and expertise to break into the enterprise segment and the education space. Swipe will foray into the education space with a platform that will have content curated by Swipe for class I to X across all boards in India. Around 70,000 such tablets are already available in the market and will go up to 2 lakh devices by March 2015.

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