The COVID-19 pandemic delivered a big blow to the mobile handset business in Bangladesh, as the local industry incurred an estimated loss of Tk 1.0 billion (100 crore) due to the shutdown of over two months.
Firms in the sector even feared that they may have to struggle for the next two years to make up for this year’s losses. Drawing government's attention to their adversity, they have demanded a stimulus package for their sector, like that for the readymade garment, and other export-oriented, industries.
Zakaria Shahid, managing director of Edison Group, the parent company of Symphony, and also general secretary of Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers’ Association (BMPIA), expressed these concerns while talking to UNB recently.
BMPIA assessed the situation in the last 45 days and found that the sector, including mobile import, manufacture and market sales, incurred a loss of around Tk 1.0 billion (100 crore), he said.
Noting that all the nine handset manufacturing companies have bank loans, Zakaria said the companies had to pay interests to banks and salaries to the employees though their factories were shut due to the coronavirus fallout, UNB reported.
Besides, the retailers got no respite from paying rent for their shops and wages to the salespersons, he said.
Fearing that the sector may shrink by 30-35 per cent this year, BMPIA secretary said it may take a couple of years to make up for the loss.
Zakaria Shahid demanded incentives from the government. “We’re seeking incentives from the government to recover the loss of the sector. If the government helps the sector by providing loans with easy conditions, the loss can be recovered within a short time,” he said.
He also disclosed that they requested the Ministry of Finance in a letter not to change any of the provisions in place for the mobile handset industry in the upcoming budget. “We’ve said that there should be no change in the provisions for mobile handsets in the upcoming budget,” he added.
In the pre-coronavirus period, a total of 2.5 million (25 lakh) handsets were annually sold in the country. An estimated 25-30 per cent of those were smartphones.
Currently, a total of nine companies are locally manufacturing mobile handsets after importing raw materials from abroad.
All the factories had remained shut since the coronavirus outbreak but those will now start operation maintaining healthcare guidelines, he said.