Rajeev Karwal is back in the business of consumer electronics with tablet PCs.

Bhupesh Bhandari talks to him about Milagrow Tabtop, his latest offering. Rajeev Karwal’s LinkedIn profile describes him as a “rare leader who is an innovator, a shaper, yet an effective manager. His adaptive nature and high nervous energy has made him a success with startups, turnarounds as well as steady-state organisations.” Karwal worked with Onida (steady-state organisation?), and subsequently became the head of sales and marketing for LG India (startup) for two years when it set up shop in 1997 after two failed attempts (one with Chandra Kant Birla). He was one of the two claimants for the Korean company’s success in India, the other being K R Kim (the then managing director). Kim earlier this year wrote a book, Essence of Good Management, on how to succeed in India! For over three years after that, Karwal headed the consumer electronics business of Philips India (turnaround, his LinkedIn profile says), followed by another three years as the managing director of Electrolux (turnaround again, he left the company six days before its business was sold to Videocon) and one year as the head of the consumer durables, information technology and telecom vertical of Reliance Retail (startup). In 2007, he set up consultancy outfit Milagrow Business & Knowledge Solutions. And now, Karwal has returned to the world of consumer electronics with tablet PCs under his Milagrow brand. Domestic robots and convergence electronics could soon follow . You could blame it on his “high nervous energy”. The LinkedIn profile goes on to add that Karwal “provides the vital spark. He is imaginative and original, and produces lots of ideas. He is independent, unorthodox, radical and forthright.” The Milagrow website says he is known as the “poster boy of the (Indian) consumer durable industry” and considered “one of the greatest brand builders in India”. In a 2003 interaction with Business Standard, for an article titled “Karwal on Karwal”, he had compared himself with Amitabh Bachchan (“LG is to me what Zanjeer is to him”) and Sachin Tendulkar for his consistency. When asked about his MBA degree from IMT Ghaziabad and not one of the IIMs, he had remarked that nobody cares if Tendulkar failed his school-leaving exam by six marks. Still, the tablet market could be a tough net to crack. Indeed, Milagrow hasn’t set the market abuzz. A rival says that it isn’t serious enough to take note of, and what consumers look for at the end of the day is the reassurance of a brand. “To be successful, you need to create a great experience in a market where everything looks alike,” says S N Rai of Lava mobile phones who worked with Karwal in LG India over a decade ago and plans to launch his tablet anytime soon. “But he is a smart man.” *** Karwal’s tablet, the Milagrow TabTop, has been designed in Taiwan and is produced in China. The design is owned by Karwal (the result of 18 months of hard work, says he) and the Chinese producer cannot sell it to others. The machine, according to Karwal, is the first in the world with all the ports required for computing: HDMI, USB, line out, SIM and SD card. It is faster than rivals, Karwal claims, and is fitted with a Quad band built-in 3G module that can support most global telecom services in frequencies between 450 MHz and 2100 MHz. The 16 GB model is priced at Rs 24,990 on Flipkart, the online retail store, and the 32 GB has a price tag of Rs 29,990. Karwal says he makes money at these prices, though the recent fall in the rupee vis-à-vis the dollar has wreaked havoc. According to our in-house personal technlogy Priyanka Joshi, there is nothing that Milagrow’s TabTop lacks in hardware. But its LED backlit 1024x768 mm widescreen high-definition display is less bright when compared with the Samsung Galaxy tab and Apple iPad 2, though it is comparable to the Reliance 3G Tab. The Samsung Galaxy sports a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, while the Milagrow TabTop has a 2-megapixel rear-facing camera and 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera — tough to please those who want tablets for imaging purposes. The battery performance is better with Milagrow TabTop delivering up to 10 hours with optimum usage, as against nine hours on Reliance 3G Tab and eight to nine hours on Samsung Galaxy. Karwal says his tablets are value for money. Various estimates suggest the tablet market will be about 200,000 in 2011 (if direct imports are included, Karwal says the number should come to 500,000), or about 3,850 a week. Karwal says he sells 25 to 30 pieces a week. At the moment, he sells only in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Surat, but hopes to add Bangalore, Indore and Bhopal to the list soon. One of the Ambani brothers, he says, recently ordered one from a store in Mumbai. Milagrow TabTop’s marketshare in Delhi, Karwal says, is 1 per cent. ***

HTC. a truck maker.” says Karwal.990. The company had launched TabTop 7. the old prescription has to be brought along. Karwal also runs a CEO mentor programme for such businesses. Milagrow. It will also have preinstalled Flyte. That connection could come handy now. Iran and Pakistan. To sell the tablet. started out as an expert in small. That’s perhaps because in the last four years Karwal has been signed on by a number of companies including a tractor maker. especially small and mid-scale companies. That will require money. It is priced at Rs 13. It has sold 5. ours is a ready-to-eat tablet. on a Saturday.” said Rajeev Karwal. and comes with preloaded Tamil and Hindi keyboards.4 in May. Flipkart’s online music store. he claims. Karwal says. is adequately funded for the next 18 months or so.and mid-scale businesses — a “venture catalyst and one-stop destination for small business”. Founder. among others. and of course online stores — two or three sell on Flipkart every day. For subsequent visits.5 mm thick with one terabyte external hard disk drive. said it is looking to sell about one lakh units this fiscal. Karwal will have to advertise on the mass media. The TabTop comes fitted with 50 apps related to productivity. Karwal has avoided mobile phone retailers because their showrooms are too small to display personal computers properly and the consumer engagement is too short to evaluate a tablet. the consultancy. Pune and Hyderabad.000-plus in August. utility and networking. So. Kannada will follow next month. which has upgraded its slimmest tablet TabTop7. set up in 2008 as an IT consulting firm. . BlackBerry. Philips and Electrolux — another leverage. Dell. he has advised consumer electronics companies in Turkey. entered the consumer durables segment in the third quarter of last year. which include the world’s slimmest tablet and the first ever women-centric tablet. he holds a session called Venture Doctors where small businessmen can come to him with any problem and he will write out a “prescription”. So he has chosen to go through multi-brand retail chains. in the country. There is no doubt that the tablet market is all set to explode. hotels and hospitals. Karwal says Milagrow.) Karwal has got special apps developed for sales force automation. It also plans to launch a Windows tablet at Rs 45. JUNE 22: Tablet PC-maker Milagrow. Outside India. It has three business verticals — Tablet PC. “Unlike others where you need to download apps. MUMBAI. Karwal is up against giants like Apple. Samsung. Many of these chains Karwal knows from his days at LG. HCL and others. Bangalore. There could be leverage for him in this. Sooner or later. The total tablet market is expected to be two million units. Once every month. But the deep pockets of these rivals do not seem to bother him.000 units of TabTop so far with demand coming from cities such as Chennai.” says he. held 100 per cent by him along with his wife. The new version of the 16 GB TabTop is just 6. “We are aiming at a 5 per cent market share in the Indian tablet market this year with one lakh units. “I have deliberately stayed away from consumer electronics in India. Milagrow. and hence the possibilities are huge. Milagrow. and a home appliances company. It has already launched eight products so far. especially once he gets into household robotic appliances.Karwal has positioned his tablet at the enterprise market. (Karwal also heads the Forum for Ethical Business and recently authored a book called Corporate Blogging in India. Shobha. Kochi. Domestic Robotics and Convergence Technologies.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful