Indian government has asked local phone makers to build smartphones priced under Rs 2000. The aim is to push Internet-enabled devices to rural areas. It was just recently reports about TRAI recommending 100MB of free data to mobile phone subscribers in the rural areas in order to give a big push to the government's cashless economy surfaced online. And, then we also Google CEO Sundar Pichai suggesting smartphones priced under ₹ 2000 could help improve digital access in the country.

 

While this announcement comes at a time when the government is looking to push digital services for a cashless society, there is no denying that Indian government has always been trying to push for affordable devices even in the past. We've seen the not-so-popular Aakash project that was aimed at students. And individual players like the Freedom 251 maker leveraging on the Digital India sentiment before turning out to be a mere scam. 

 

It is for the first time that the Indian govt has reportedly asked local handset makers to build smartphones priced under Rs 2000. Citing an industry executive, an ET report claims companies such as Micromax, Intex, Lava and Karbonn have been asked to build low-cost phones 'that can take digital transactions to the masses'. However, Chinese players haven’t been approached for this project, adds the report.

 

This move could further be in line with the government's push for a cashless economy. The report adds, citing three industry executives, govt has been enabling digital transactions that are growing, but there aren't enough low-cost smartphones in the market. More low-cost smartphones would ensure Internet-enabled phone access to people in rural areas. It is aimed at allowing financial transactions from anywhere, and these devices should have the ability for ‘scanning for Aadhaar-based financial transactions’ in the future, adds the report.

 

The government wants these phone makers to push about 20-25 million handsets in the market. Now, that’s a large number. However, it has ruled out the possibility of a government subsidy. In fact, it wants handset makers to come up with solutions that would help bring down the cost. 

 

We've learnt from the past that phones with decent processors, workable display and functional fingerprint or other biometric scanner can't be built at cheap price. The device may not be as efficient as one may expect it to be. And, consumers in the fierce Indian phone market can be quite unforgiving. For now, it seems like a far-fetched dream.