Bangladesh primarily imports mobile phones from China but imports have stalled amid the pandemic
While visiting the webpage of Gadget & Gear, an advertisement for the Realme 5i phone will capture your attention. With 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM and a 5000 ampere battery, the phone costs Tk12,999.
The phone is in high demand as there is no better configuration for this price range.
However, in reality, the phone is unavailable at Gadget & Gear outlets. The phone is being sold, unofficially, at various markets – including Jamuna Future Park and the Bashundhara shopping mall.
However, the selling price is at least Tk3,000 higher than its actual price.
The mobile phone traders and importers said that they do not have the sufficient quantity of handsets to meet market demand. Consequently, the selling price of medium-priced handsets has increased by up to Tk3,000.
Visiting some shops that sell mobile phones, it was found that the increased price was written next to the old price tag of the phones.
Salespeople said that this situation will remain until the mobile phone import situation normalises.
In a statement, Realme said, "Due to the ongoing pandemic situation, similar to every other business, the overall smartphone market has been impacted. Currently, we are relying on existing stocks for outputs from our assembly plants while maintaining the standard safety measures instructed by the government."
"The production timeline is relatively longer than we expected but we are nevertheless rationalising our strategies to meet the market demand," the statement added.
About the matter, Mohammad Nizam Uddin Jitu, chairman and managing director of Telelink Group, also general secretary of the Bangladesh Mobile Phone Businessmen Association, told The Business Standard, "Mobile phones are mostly imported from China – imports which have stalled for the past few months."
So, they were unable to meet the demands of the mobile phone users which has resulted in an increased price of mobile phones, he added.
He continued, "Importers are preparing to open LCs for handset imports. It will take at least one to two months for the supply situation to return to normal."
Meanwhile, the reporters talked with some other mobile phone vendors inside and outside of Dhaka. They said that phones – including Redmi, Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Samsung, and some of Nokia's feature phones – are in high demand.
They also said that some other Android phones also have higher demand. The phones which cost between Tk10,000 -12,000 are more in-demand.
Mamunur Rashid, a phone seller at Jamuna Future Park, told The Business Standard, "A lot of phones were sold in the first 15-20 days after the market was opened following the general holiday."
More phones ranging between Tk10,000 – 20,000 in price were sold during this time. Despite having the numbers of mobile phone buyers, they were unable to meet the demands, he added.
It is found that Bangladesh mostly imports mobile phones from China. However, the import of phones was halted for the lockdown in China, and that has yet to normalise.
Assembling mobile phones in the country is also impossible as the assemblers cannot import the necessary parts.
Walton is one of the leading mobile phone manufacturers in the country. The company says there is no crisis in the supply of Walton mobile phones in the wake of Covid-19.
In a statement, it said, "There is ample supply of Walton feature phones and smartphones on the market. Walton has continued production following the demand. The supply of raw materials and spare parts for all the existing models of phones is normal."
However, it is taking time to release the newer mobile phone models on the market, added the statement.
According to BMBA, an association of mobile phone traders in Bangladesh, usually about three million handsets are sold every month across the country.
According to the Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPIA) and Bangladesh Mobile Phone Businessmen Association, a total of 3.28 crore mobile phones were sold in 2019.
Of these, smartphones were 76.80 lakh units and feature phones were 2.51 crore.
However, according to BTRC data, 1.35 crore mobile phones were imported in 2019 – of which about 10 lakh were smartphones.