Remember the “Doel” laptop? It was the first laptop to be assembled in Bangladesh. In 2011, the Telephone Shilpa Sangstha Limited, launched the first Doel laptops as part of a project under the National Education Program. At that time there was a lot of hype about these laptops with hopes that good quality laptops would be available in the country at low prices. But in reality, the Doel laptop failed to gain acceptance among consumers. Although Doel came with the aim of delivering laptops to everyone at low prices, the laptop did not create such a concussion in the market.
Laptop Market in Bangladesh:
The laptop market in the country is constantly growing due to the improvement of internet infrastructure and digitization. According to Market Intelligence Firm, IDC, there is a 1.5 billion USD IT-based technology product market in Bangladesh. The market for laptops is about 175 million USD. According to the Bangladesh Computer Society, as of 2020, about one million laptops are currently imported into the country every year, which was just 20,000-25,000 in 2008. It is estimated to grow at 15-20% per annum. Of the total laptop consumers in the country, 75% are corporate customers and 25% are students. About 80% of imported laptops come from China, Singapore, USA, Thailand, and Malaysia. According to IDC, 36% of imported laptops are HP, 26% Dell, 18% Lenovo, 14% Asus, 4% Acer and the remaining 16% are laptops of other brands.
Moreover, Chinese tech giant Huawei has already built their assembly plant in Bangladesh. The local brand Walton has started their laptop production as well. The company is targeting to sell around 100,000 laptops each year. However, as a domestic brand, Doel started its journey long before Walton, but could not survive in the market for the long haul. There were, of course, several reasons for this.
In 2010-11, Asian countries became active in bringing their own products to the electronics market. To reduce its reliance on Intel processors, China has taken the initiative to build computer processors. India also tried to bring its own tablets to the market. Meanwhile Bangladesh took the initiative to provide low-cost laptops to the school & college going students through locally assembled laptops.
Since, at that time internet modems were becoming popular, there was a growing trend among everyone to buy laptops. Therefore, with a loan of Tk 45 crore from BTCL, the Telephone Shilpa Shangstha limited, Dhaka-based 2M Corporation and Malaysian Thin Film Transistor (TFT) Technology formed a joint venture. Initially, only 10% of parts were made in Bangladesh but gradually the target was set to produce 60% of the parts in Bangladesh.
The company introduced 4 different models of laptops to the market at that time. Minimum configuration was a laptop with an 800MHz VIA 8650 processor, 512MB of RAM, a 10.1 “1024×600 display, and 16GB of flash memory, with a price tag of 10,000 BDT. Another model, the Doel 0703 was priced at 13500 BDT. The specification was somewhat better with Atom N456 processor, 1GB RAM, 250GB hard disk, Better screen, and comparatively better webcam. The operating system was also Linux. The rest of the models were priced at BDT 22,000 and BDT 26,000 respectively.
Fall of Doel Laptop
After unveiling to the market in 2011, the production of ‘Doel’ stopped within 2 years. The reason for the closure was the lack of funds required for the project. The demand for this laptop was also very low due to poor configuration. According to TSS’s annual report published in 2013, TSS has managed to sell 26,622 laptops in only two years. Of this, the Ministry of Education bought two-thirds or 16,615. Surprisingly, only 98 units of their lowest-priced laptop were sold in two years. The biggest push came from the other two partners in the project, 2M Corp and TFT. They withdrew from the project less than a year after the launch of the Doel laptop. They owned 75% of the project venture. According to a report prepared by TSS, TFT claims 2,25,000 BDT as their equipment cost. That’s why TSS has to face many problems in this project management, as a result, a significant part of the assembled laptop remains unsold. As per TSS’s 2013 annual report, only 28,000 laptops were sold in two years. Whereas, 37,059 laptops were assembled.
Reasons of Failure
There were several reasons for the failure of Doel laptops. Among which, there was the consumer perception about the quality of the laptops. Even though the laptops were meant to be affordable in nature, the TSS was manufacturing laptops with very low specifications to keep the prices of the laptops down. As a result, those laptops were performing very poorly and users were not happy with the performance of those laptops. A study published in 2014 mentioned the experiences of 50 Doel laptop users. The study recorded that the users were facing problems in almost every aspect of the Doel laptops except few. 83% of users complained about the batteries, 35% complained about RAM and about 18% complained about the processors. Also most components of the laptop were not durable. Moreover, there was no after-sales service. Which resulted in people losing faith on the laptops and according to many are the key reason for the low demand.
Finally, in 2016, TSS completely shut down the ‘Doel laptop project’. According to TSS’s 2016-17 annual report, a total of 63,245 Doel laptops of 11 models were assembled and 58,750 were sold from 2011 to 2016. Originally, they thought that if they branded Doel as a domestic laptop at a lower price, everyone would be interested in buying the laptop. As Walton thought in the case of their mobile. But that was not the case. With the emergence of faster internet connection, everyone was checking up online before buying any product, especially electronics. As a result, world-class brands like HP, Dell have taken a strong position in the market with their high-quality laptops. Thus, it was quite competitive for Doel laptops from the beginning.
Doel Trying to Comeback
At the end of 2019, TSS announced the launch of a new Doel laptop. TSS says that some of the new laptops are priced a little higher and focus on better configuration. To that end, TSS added 14,350 laptops in the 2018-19 financial year. Of these, they have sold 13,625 Doel laptops at a cost of Tk 56 crore. There is also discussion of opening 20 Doel laptop showrooms and service centers across the country. Under this program, a laptop called Doel Advanced 1612-i5 is expected to be launched at a price of BDT 42,000. The laptop has a 6th Generation Intel Core i5 processor. However, where the 10th Generation processor is currently running, the 6th Generation processors are quite backdated. On the other hand, now everyone has started using SSD for better performance, but Doel is limited to HDD. Moreover, the laptop uses DDR3 Ram and 1366X768 Pixel HD display. But brands like HP, Lenovo, and Asus are offering DDR4 and Full HD displays in the same budget. If we calculate, it can be seen that if we increase the budget a little from Doel, it is possible to get laptops of very good specification of other brands. There was a time when people didn’t check so much when buying a laptop. But nowadays everyone is so dependent on technology that when they buy something, they first check it online. In that case, Doel’s backdated approach is unlikely to bring a very positive result. While there has been a negative impact on everyone about Doyle, a good brand value of brands like HP, Dell, Lenovo has been created in the market. So, the idea is that this time Doel will have to spend some hard time surviving in the market.
How Doel Can Survive
First, Doel needs to be updated all the time to maintain its presence in the market. They will drop out of a huge market if they offer low-quality laptops at low prices. Especially from those who are always interested in using updated models. Second, no matter what product they offer, quality assurance must be ensured. Because in the past there were many complaints about the build quality and material of Doel. In that case, Doel can ensure their quality by collaborating with a good manufacturer. Thirdly, after-sales service. Doyle’s after-sales service was not very good. So Doel needs to ensure quality products as well as after-sales service. This will increase everyone’s confidence in Doel.
Fourthly, Doel laptops can be made mandatory in all types of government institutions. This will make it possible to increase the sales of Doel laptops. In addition, Doel laptops can be provided by the government every year with the budget for laptops or computers in government institutions. Above all, we believe that Doel will be able to take a good position in the laptop electronics market if it can provide good quality laptops at low prices to government offices, schools-colleges-universities, and the general public on a priority basis and ensure after-sales service.