Video gaming, be it any form, wouldn’t have been what it is if it wasn’t for Nvidia. A pioneer in the GPU segment since as long as you can remember, the gaming industry depends on the likes of Nvidia to advance graphics hardware in order to make the best looking games.
We speak to Vishal Dhupar, the Managing Director of Nvidia, South Asia, on the recently launched XOLO Play T-1000 featuring the Tegra 3 graphics chip, GeForce graphics cards and Project Shield
The Nvidia – Lava partnership and the birth of XOLO Play
Nvidia partnered with Indian mobile phone manufacturer Lava, to bring the Tegra 3 chipset to their XOLO lineup. A one-of-a-kind unison, seen for the first time in India, Vishal Dhupar comments “The journey (of the partnership) started sometime back. To more I look at India from the Nvidia lens, I feel we had certain advantages that I believe would make a difference to the community that lives in India. Especially for the consumer range, with Tegra in perspective, there was an opportunity to partner with local companies. When I started socialising this idea, we came across Lava, who then launched their multimedia lineup, XOLO.”
We are very well aware that most Indian mobile phone brands (Micromax, Lemon etc.) manufacture cheap phones but with all the bells and whistles found in full fledged top-of-the-line smartphone. There is a catch though, the cost cutting is evident in the specifications and build quality. On the contrary, Lava XOLO is the first brand to exclusively feature a Tegra chipset. The Tegra 3 chipset is a multi-core graphics processing unit, enabling console-like graphics on portable devices such as smartphones and tablets.
“Our entire interest was how can we give the local population the true experience in line with what people get internationally.With that pursuit we (Nvidia and Lava) started talking and came to a good understanding to create a brand under XOLO called ‘XOLO Play’. This line will feature a series of products from Nvidia as a part and parcel of it. People who use that technology can also use it for multimedia activities apart from communication. That is how the idea came into existence” continues Dhupar.
Tegra for India?
Priced at INR 15,999, the XOLO Play T1000 is the most expensive phone by Lava, yet. Only Micromax has a phone priced higher than this at INR 19,000, the Canvas 4. Yet, Dhupar feels that this is a good value proposition, “The way I’ve looked at it, if you compare the XOLO range of products, the objective has been to bring the most premium impact at the best prices for people. If I keep that momentum in place, I feel it is priced very well. People are going to enjoy that price.”
Carrying on with our conversation, when asked whether Nvidia is working on other local partnerships, Dhupar denies, but adds “We have been more pervasive than ever and we are exploring opportunities but currently its all about the XOLO.”
The Tegra chipset, although well known in the West is still a relatively new concept for India. Speaking on how it will be received by the market, “the XOLO play evolved keeping in mind the Tegra. it is designed to leverage the entire ecosystem the Tegra promotes. that is why the value proposition is extremely high. Under the Android Marketplace is the Tegrazone app. Any single user can visit Tegrazone to get high quality games. Tegrazone comes preloaded on the XOLO Play” says Dhupar.
Smartphones have had a good run in India, although limited to the urban circles. The Indian smartphone market is evolving, and when asked about Tegra’s significance in this climate, Dhupar says “Android has a big base in India. According to our research, 52% people in the country actually prefer Android. Thus, we are in the right time at the right place and we have reason to look at India for growth rather than other parts of the world.”
Dedicated GPUs, a luxury?
The GeForce brand embraced the subcontinent much before you could have guessed. But historically, having a dedicated GPU seemed more like a luxury to Indian masses rather than an enhancement of experience. Commenting on this, Dhupar continues “We have a huge base in India in terms of design activities. If you look at GeForce as a platform for the consumer, it is a bedrock from which we try to take on everything. We are in a generation where people play electronic games. The generation which is now coming up, are allowed to play games by their parents. Gaming is not frowned upon like it was in the 90s. This growing generation is different. Games like Call of duty and Grand Theft Auto are as popular in India as they are in the rest of the world. All that people require is a good platform that will give them a true experience, and that is the reason why we’re here.”
Embedded scientific culture
Our conversation is going strong, and we start dissecting into deeper subjects and root causes. We start discussing about what the country needs to make video gaming an acceptable form on entertainment and career. “The way I see it, as people engage with video games they’ll begin to understand the science that goes behind it i.e. simulation, physics, A.I etc.. Being an engineering and science oriented country, some of the interest that the children will pick up from here could translate into actually giving us good growth over the coming period of time. And so I’m looking at India as a long journey, a journey that has just begun” says Dhupar.
Project Shield in India
Nvidia’s Shield, a handheld gaming console featuring Tegra 3, PC-streaming and a dual analog stick controller, has not seen any light in India, yet. Asking Dhupar whether there is a possibility, he adds “Current plan for the Shield is in North and Latin America. Based on the performance there, we will take the decision whether India should be a market for this or not.”
On GeForce and high Indian prices
I made it a point before beginning our conversation to get a full-proof reason as to why graphic cards in India and more expensive than their US and European counterparts. For example, the GeForce GTX 780 costs INR 51,000 upwards in India. In the US, it is available for $650 (INR 39,000). That is about roughly 25% disparity in both the prices. Giving an explanation, Dhupar says “Prices are a direct correlation of the taxes and duties the Government levies. Then we have to add up the dollar rates, which are high, import duties and logistics. Adding them up, we reach a certain price point.” I counter by saying that why then do other computer peripherals cost almost the same as their American prices, he explains “GPUs attract a higher duty because they belong to a different segment from computer peripherals” Turns out, the Government sees GPUs as a luxury addition and thus taxes it more.
GeForce is Nvidia’s most recognizable brand, which has done its fare share of rounds in India over the past couple of years. Speaking on the market outlook and evolution, Dhupar comments “Specific to india, attached rates of GPUs to desktop is very low. This is changing though. Over time, people who buy desktops insist on GPUs. And that is because people are aware of the rich content a dedicated GPU can enable. A common practice here is purchasing of previous gen GPUs, mainly due to price benefit. But these habits are changing and ratios are changing rapidly.”
Nvidia maintains a wide lineup for its desktop GPUs, having solutions for a broad range of price points. Speaking about which price point is most popular in the country. “The main concentration of sales lies in the lower part of the pyramid. And we’re seeing that a lot of people who were on the higher end of mid range spectrum (say, GTX 660, 760) are now embracing the higher range (GTX 670, 680), which indicates that they are more enthusiastic about gaming, and they understand the difference between the level of cards. These aren’t large numbers, but the growth figures are exceptional.” says Dhupar.
And this is when we decide to wrap up our 40 minute conversation. If you have anything to say to Nvidia, please use the Comments box below and we’ll make sure your word reaches them. Also, don’t forget to the ‘Like’ the post!