What are the challenges to local brands?
Now, there are a number of challenges to local brands. These are scarcity of skilled labour force; relatively higher production cost compared to that of foreign brands; price competitiveness; risk of technology transfer, etc.
Do you think Bangladesh can export mobile phone after meeting local demands?
Of course, the country has an opportunity to export locally made mobile phone sets after meeting local demands. A significant number of expatriate Bangladeshis are now in different countries. If we target those Non-Resident Bangladeshis (NRBs), we will find a potential market abroad.
Do you think Bangladesh can manufacture mobile phone instead of assembling?
Yes, I think so. The country will turn into a mobile phone manufacturing hub rather than an assembling industry. Once, we used to manufacture some spare parts of refrigerators, televisions and air conditioners locally, but now we have turned ourselves as a 100% local manufacturer of those home appliances.
Does Walton assemble its own handsets locally? If no, do you have any plan to do so in the near future and when?
Right now, Walton is not assembling its own brand handsets locally, but it has a plan to manufacture world-class handsets in its own factory at Chandra in Gazipur.
DG Tech Industries Ltd, a sister concern of Walton Group, is establishing manufacturing project. If everything goes fine, we would be able to start production by this month.
How can local brand turn out to be a global brand?
It is a 100 million question, but it is now a reality, as Walton has started making it happen for its other products. If we look into the present market scenario, you will find some recognise Walton as a brand.
We are producing different electronics products and home appliances, which have already started to be exported in small scale.
Now, it is time for the government to take measures to make our products familiar with the world through its commerce wings in different countries.
On the other hand, the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Bangladesh, should include the sector into its expo list to create an opportunity for the products to display in the global markets.
How will Walton ensure better designs and quality products?
Walton has already set up Research and Development Centre with highly qualified, skilled and experienced engineers from home and abroad. The team of professional engineers are engaged in product development as well as ensuring quality of products.
In addition, the company has capacity to manufacture multi-layer motherboard or Printed Circuit Board (PCB) by most-advanced SMT Machine at its own factory.
With the help of its research team, the company always focuses on innovation to upgrade its product models and designs to satisfy customers in comparison with other brands.
How will you meet the demand for skilled manpower?
There is scarcity of skilled workforce. Thus, productivity rate of local industry’s workforce gets lower than that of overseas brands. Besides, mobile phone technology is entirely a new technology for local industry, and therefore, risk factor is very high in terms of technology transfer.
In order to meet the demand for skilled workforce, the government should focus on vocational training. While the universities need to prepare their fresh graduates in such a manner that they can fulfill the industry needs.
On the hand, through proper negotiation with developed countries, the government should arrange training that will help acquire knowledge on the latest development in technologies.
Will the current budget help the local industry?
For the current fiscal year, the government has cut duties and taxes on the import of raw materials and spare parts to facilitate manufacture of mobile phones locally.
Undoubtedly, such tax benefit will encourage local entrepreneurs to produce mobile phones in Bangladesh, but I think the government should provide some extra benefits to ensure sustainable boom in handset manufacturing industry in Bangladesh.
Is the taxation in favour of local industry?
Though there is a relief on the import of raw materials, overall taxation system is not in favour of the industry.
Currently, the sector has to pay 35% corporate tax. To attract more investment, the government should provide incentives and policy support for the sector as it is an emerging industry.
For the sake of local entrepreneurs, the government should declare tax holiday at least for 20 years for ensuring sustainable boom of mobile set industry in the country.
If mobile phone industry is expanded, it can meet a larger portion of demand locally. Thus, Bangladesh can save a huge amount of foreign currency, alongside creating a good number of jobs for the young generation.
The latest budget has increased the import duty on handsets from 5% to 10%. What would be the possible impact of this measure?
Of course, the increase of customs duty on imported handsets would raise the prices of the imported mobile phones, but there is a concern that some unscrupulous businessmen might bring mobile sets through illegal channels.
As a result, the government would be deprived of huge amount of revenue while local handsets lose price competitiveness. Respective agencies have to be more careful so that no one can bring a single piece of handset without paying the government due taxes and duties.