QMobile: Conquering the Pakistani market, one phone at a time

Published: April 7, 2013

You can now buy a branded Android smartphone for as low as Rs6,500, complete with a warranty, thanks to QMobile.

KARACHI: 

With a greater number of Pakistani consumers shifting from basic mobile phones to more sophisticated devices, one local company seems to be making the most of out the increased appetite for cellular multitasking. QMobile – the first Pakistani mobile phone company – has introduced phones packed with high-end features at very competitive prices to the Pakistani market, and it seems to be doing great business.

This Karachi-based company was set up by Mian Pervez Akhtar of Allied Electronics Industries – an importer, assembler and distributor of LG products in Pakistan – around five years ago. According to our sources, QMobile’s revenues have witnessed a phenomenal boost since then: for the year ended June 30, 2012, its revenues stood at Rs761 million – up by a staggering 85.8% over the previous year.

However, the company operates with a different business model as compared to companies like Samsung and Nokia: although it calls itself a mobile phone company, QMobile does not manufacture its own devices; instead, it imports them from vendors in China, and sells them under its own brand. The same phones are sold in India for example under the Micromax label.

QMobile’s growth has taken measured steps. The company started with selling basic mobile phones: “Their low-end devices still account for most of their revenues,” an industry source says. QMobile has a large customer base in rural Pakistan, which accounts for more than 65% of the population. It entered the smartphone segment relatively recently.

Its product range now includes phones with touchscreen features, QWERTY input and WiFi-accessibility. It has also launched a series of smartphones powered by the Android operating system, which is the most commonly used smartphone platform today.

QMobile has built itself a strong image in the market, because it provides fairly high-end features at prices affordable for most Pakistanis: you can now buy a branded Android smartphone for as low as Rs6,500, complete with a warranty, thanks to QMobile. This may well be the primary driver behind QMobile’s growth.

“Basic phones constituted about 90% of Pakistan’s mobile phone market five years ago, but this equation is changing now,” an industry source said. “Consumers are shifting from basic mobile phones to feature phones and smartphones, and today they account for more than 20% of the market. Out of that, smartphones alone account for more than 10% of the market,” he said.

QMobile claims to be the number two brand in the country: and industry sources say that in the absence of any accurately verifiable numbers, this may be so in terms of the volumes of units it sells.

A heavy marketing campaign has also helped the company build a strong brand name. “QMobile is a success story, especially in terms of branding,” a telecom consultant said. Its advertising budget is higher than even that of market leader Nokia, an official revealed.

This is one of the main reasons behind the brand’s success. The company has even used product placement as an advertising technique to promote its products. Take, for example, Bulbulay: a primetime sitcom, which often promotes QMobile products, one source pointed out. “This kind of advertising does not cost much, and earns the company valuable marketing: that too in prime time hours,” he said. Moreover, QMobile has always used Pakistan’s hottest celebrities in advertising its products. Pop singers Atif Aslam and Abrarul Haq have promoted QMobile phones in the past. Iman Ali has modeled for them. Hugely popular television celebrity Fawwad Khan is now promoting their top-tier Noir smartphones. All these factors have helped QMobile make a name for itself as being in a league apart from the cheap Chinese copies of popular handsets currently circulating in the market. It has achieved a measure of respect as a legitimate name in the cellular phone industry.

And to a degree this is true. The phones are visibly better than cheap Chinese knockoffs and perform much better too.

However, despite all its success, the company needs to improve on in its customer service, say industry insiders. Moreover, a lot of consumers complain that QMobile Android phones cut too many corners to provide low-cost devices, and hope that it will come up with affordable technology that can challenge the big guns in the market and give them a run for their money. Right now however the company is apparently following a strategy where it is trying to price out the competition, and it seems to be working.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • Syed
    Apr 7, 2013 - 3:47AM

    I really wish Qmobile would start with manufacturing their own phone also, it would become ultimate success story !

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  • Salahuddin Iqbal
    Apr 7, 2013 - 6:34AM

    They really need to improve their quality. Bought a high-end android phone last week and the phone fails to read the memory card. Now i regret saving money

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  • Naveed Alam Khattak
    Apr 7, 2013 - 11:41AM

    I wish Qmobile to be promoted in Saudi ARabia. There is great market & Opportunity for this brand if it is exported to Saudi Arabia.

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  • Sajid Iqbal
    Apr 7, 2013 - 12:26PM

    Definitely better than Chinese knockoffs. What should they do is to increase their smartphones portfolio.

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  • Muhammad Omar
    Apr 7, 2013 - 2:23PM

    This might have very low chances to make it happen but I would love to see upcoming qmobile run Ubuntu Phone Os

    here the link below

    http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/phone

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  • adil
    Apr 7, 2013 - 3:50PM

    Noir A10 all the way!!!

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  • FF
    Apr 7, 2013 - 4:06PM

    QMobile needs to seriously improve battery-life of their smartphones if they wish to continue initial success!

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  • malik
    Apr 7, 2013 - 4:42PM

    The figures you have quoted as revenues for Q Mobile is way off target. The actual revenue is much higher than that. If their marketing budget is well over a billion, how can their revenues be 761 Million???

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  • Najeebullah
    Apr 7, 2013 - 4:43PM

    Those who have use high and low end mobiles of Samsung, Sony, HTC, or apple will never buy Qmobile in their entire life because of its low quality camera and screen resolution plus they are very slow.

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  • Asad
    Apr 7, 2013 - 4:52PM

    I recently got a Noir phone, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality.

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  • malik
    Apr 7, 2013 - 5:45PM

    web site is not available for Q-mobile…. its good why not to bring these stuff to Gulf countries,,, huge market to explore KSA, UAE,,,,where expats live, spend and work,,, specially from round the globe,,,Best luck

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  • Umer
    Apr 7, 2013 - 6:20PM

    @Syed:
    and i really really wish Q mobile lunch its 3G (hardware) mobile service so it can also compete in international market, as i really want to buy it but not getting it coz of lacking 3G :(

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  • Umer
    Apr 7, 2013 - 6:22PM

    Q mobile should lunch their 3G mobile so they can also avail the international market as its the best smart phone in low cost but only lacking of 3G :(

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  • adil
    Apr 7, 2013 - 7:05PM

    q mobile is a totally failure specially there touch screen mobiles i dont know why et is promoting this brand . htc and other mobiles is much better than q mobile

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  • Reader
    Apr 7, 2013 - 7:36PM

    @Syed: That would required the ability to make semiconductors / integrated circuits, and for that you need a fabrication plant, and I think there is no fabrication plant in Pakistan. It costs billions of dollars or so to make fabrication plant and lots of expertise, so not many countries have one. what they can do however is import the parts and assemble them, as they do with LG, and like other pakistani companies manufacturing refrigerators, microwaves etc. that i think is possible and they will probably start to do that at some point.Recommend

  • zain
    Apr 7, 2013 - 10:32PM

    @Salahuddin Iqbal….. just change memory card,it will solve ur problem

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Apr 7, 2013 - 10:52PM

    @ Reader, excellent comment.
    Two reason we will never manufacture these products. First, its more profitable to import cheap parts, assemble and sell it in the market. The so-called Industrilists are doing this for six decades. Secondly, our society does not produce enough top class Engineers, Technicians and Entrepreneurs necessary to create manufacturing base.

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  • Reader
    Apr 8, 2013 - 12:29AM

    @Ch. Allah Daad
    Thank you.
    I believe the main reason why there is no fabrication plant in Pakistan is that the small size of the Pakistani market does not justify the huge investment required of a fabrication plant. It would have to produce a lot of goods for export. It would be difficult for a Pakistani party or govt to get guaranteed export contracts before setting it up as they would have no experience in this. Without guaranteed exports it would be a huge risk and lots of money could be lost.
    It is possible as a foreign investment though, if foreign companies with experience in this business decide to outsource it here. However as you know Pakistan is not a favourable environment.
    I heard from someone in the Ministry of Commerce that they had been approached by a Japanese delegation in the 90s who wanted to set up microchip factories on the port. The prime minister Nawaz Sharif told them to set it up in Punjab instead of Karachi. However as there is no sea port in Punjab this would not be economically efficient and so they just went to other countries like India, China etc.

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  • Mika
    Apr 8, 2013 - 7:30AM

    Great opportunity missed by Nokia. Nokia should have set up manufacturing base here when there were lot of loyal fan-base.

    @Syed:
    I hope they set up manufacturing as well.

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  • Mika
    Apr 8, 2013 - 7:31AM

    @Muhammad Omar:
    Someone might port it or the new Firefox OS which is even better.

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  • oops
    Apr 8, 2013 - 7:56AM

    @Reader:

    “Japanese delegation in the 90s who wanted to set up microchip factories on the port. The prime minister Nawaz Sharif told them to set it up in Punjab instead of Karachi. However as there is no sea port in Punjab this would not be economically efficient and so they just went to other countries like India, China etc.”

    self explanatory of our status as nation….this is why we are spiralling downwards…

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  • Mustafa
    Apr 8, 2013 - 10:46AM

    QMobile A series are the best..
    Mashaallah good job..

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  • Zezu
    Apr 8, 2013 - 12:24PM

    “Q” What !!! ?

    Q stands for ???

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  • Fahad Hashmi
    Apr 8, 2013 - 12:31PM

    @Zezu

    “Q” stands for WHY !! saying WHY did u buy QMobile…now regret! :)

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  • RizwanKhan
    Apr 8, 2013 - 12:37PM

    Just bought Noir A10 I got really impressed. I hope it runs the way I am impressed. Thinking of buying another Q for myself too :).

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  • Hina
    Apr 8, 2013 - 1:48PM

    Qmobile phones are actually very good for value of money. I have Qmobile Noir A9 and I am in love with it.
    Here is a review if anyone is interested.
    http://www.usmanmalik.me/qmobile-noir-a9-video-review/

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  • Haroon
    Apr 8, 2013 - 2:27PM

    @Salahuddin Iqbal: Issue is with the cheep SD cards available in the market, not with the phone device my dear.

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  • Haider Hussain
    Apr 8, 2013 - 4:40PM

    I’d love to know about the financing model of QMobile. And if the company has any plan to go public in the future?

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  • Apr 8, 2013 - 6:17PM

    QMobile is pretty good brand I like and impress of thier mobiles especially Noir A8 because I am using this phone.

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  • Not disappointed
    Apr 8, 2013 - 8:03PM

    I’ve bought two Q phones so far and tbh they haven’t disappointed me. It sustained my harsh treatment and had a pretty long battery life; now I’m using Noir A8 and it’s working pretty well for me. The first was an ordinary phone and I agree, the camera was pathetic, but Noir’s camera is pretty good. The speed and touch is fine too, I would totally recommend. The battery life is less, though.

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  • Mubashir Akram
    Apr 11, 2013 - 5:47PM

    @Salahuddin Iqbal: Just a suggestion: insert a branded memory card. The memory card that comes with A-10 isn’t of great quality but when I encountered the same problem, I changed the card and inserted a branded Kingston. AND it’s just working fine.

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  • Dr wajih
    Apr 26, 2013 - 6:40PM

    What are the SAR radiation limit of Qmobiles? they should mention in the box under international laws.

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  • ilyas
    Jun 2, 2013 - 10:13PM

    It’s a sign of great achievement for Pakistan that we have our own phone maker company which has recently launched smart phone at affordable prices. I myself have bought A8 smart phone and it works much better.

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