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Demand for cheap smartphones lifts cellphone imports in 2017

Mehdi Musharraf Bhuiyan | January 06, 2018 00:00:00

Cellphone imports climbed by 17.6 per cent last year, as the country's 'price sensitive' market continues to be driven by demands for feature phones and low-priced smartphones.

Around 35 million mobile handsets were imported in the country last year, the total sales value of which was around Tk. 100 billion, according to the data from the Mobile Importers Association.

This is a consistent jump from the previous year of 2016 when the handset import increased by around 18 per cent from the previous annum.

When asked about the main growth drivers of this Bangladesh's cellphone market, industry insiders attributed it to the demand for feature phones and low cheap smartphones.

"While the market in Bangladesh is still dominated by simple bar phones, demand for feature phones and cheaper smartphones are increasing robustly", said Md. Maksudur Rahman who is the Senior Director of Symphony, Bangladesh's leading cellphone brand.

"Features or bar phones in the price range of Tk. 1000.00 to 1500.00 and smartphones in the price range of Tk. 5000.00 and Tk. 12,000.00 are in high demands", said the sales executive of a renowned mobile phone company.

"Overall, Bangladeshi customers are quite price-sensitive", said Maksudur, "As a result, low-cost feature phones or low-priced smartphones with maximum possible specs are most popular".

Despite the rising demand, the share of smartphones in Bangladesh's handset market is still relatively low at around 23 per cent.

The preceding year also saw the share of the market leader Symphony declining at the cost of their nearest competitors like Walton and iTel.

According to latest industry figures, the share of Symphony handsets is around 30 per cent-down from 38 per cent a year ago.

Insiders said that although the sales of Symphony have increased in absolute numbers, it has not kept up with the growth of the overall market.

Despite various government drives in recent years, the local handset market also continues to be dominated by illegally-imported handsets, the share of which is estimated to be as much as 20 per cent.

High duty on the import of mobile handsets has often been blamed for this high rate of illegal import, while it is estimated that the government is losing around Tk. 6.0 billion in terms of revenue due to this grey market.

In the latest budget, the import duty on handsets was increased from 5.0 per cent to 10 per cent, which, industry insiders fear, would increase such illegal shipment.

Nevertheless, the latest budget also gave some 'concessions' to raw materials or parts required to manufacture or assemble cellular phones which, the insiders note, would encourage local manufacturing of handsets.

Notably, electronics brand Walton started local assembling of their handsets back in October last year, while Symphony, the market leader is also planning to start assembling locally this year.

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