They said sector may shrink by 30-35% this year, may take years to recuperate losses
The country’s mobile handset business suffered an estimated loss of Tk100 crore due to the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing handset manufacturers and importers to demand a separate stimulus package from the government, similar to those announced for the apparel industry and others.
Firms in the sector fear they may have to struggle for the next two years to recuperate for this year’s losses.
Drawing the government's attention to their challenges, they demanded a stimulus package for their sector following the government's initiative in the apparel 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 Tk1 billion (Tk100 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 although their factories were shut due to the coronavirus fallout in the last two months.
Besides, the retailers got no respite from paying rent for their shops and wages to the staff, he said.
Fearing that the sector may shrink by 30-35% this year, BMPIA secretary said it may take a couple of years to make up for the loss.
“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 revealed 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 handsets were annually sold in the country. An estimated 25-30% of those were smartphones.
Currently, a total of nine companies are locally manufacturing mobile handsets after importing raw materials from abroad.
All the factories remained shut since the coronavirus outbreak but those will now start operation maintaining healthcare guidelines, he said.