Chinese gadget manufacturer Xiaomi announced today it’s launching in Pakistan – the world’s sixth-most populous country – after months of speculation and official denials.
Xiaomi has expanded slowly since its 2011 debut in China, focusing mainly on Southeast Asia, India, parts of the Middle East, and Brazil. Its Pakistan entry is the largest since it ventured into Brazil mid-2015.
Xiaomi’s coming to Pakistan through a distribution partnership – as it did in Brazil – with Rocket Internet’s ecommerce marketplace, Daraz, which is present in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
Xiaomi gets go-ahead to sell smartphones in Pakistan
Jack Yung, Xiaomi’s sales director for South Asia, said three models will be available initially – the Mi Max, plus the budget Redmi Note 4 and Redmi 4A. There are also plans to sell the Mi Band 2, but the company is tight-lipped whether the full range of Xiaomi’s products will eventually reach the country.
Precise estimates of Pakistan’s smartphone market aren’t available, but the country imported almost a billion dollars worth of phones in fiscal year 2015. The actual figure is probably much higher, given the sizeable nature of the undocumented gray market in the country – which included some Xiaomi smartphones.
Late to the party?
Chinese smartphone brands like Huawei and Oppo have had an official presence in Pakistan for several years. They’ve roped in celebrities and sport personalities to push their products relentlessly – including billboards and primetime spots on national television.
Xiaomi clarifies not banned by PTA, sets to launch smartphones soon
Xiaomi’s presence will be met with a wave of publicity and fanfare but it could be tough to carve out a space, especially if it sticks to selling exclusively online. Most shopping in the country is offline – estimates of the ecommerce sector vary between US$40 million and $50 million – so unless Xiaomi puts its phones and gadgets in retail stores, it might prove hard to make an impact.
Pakistan’s adding one million 3G/4G connections every month. Smartphone imports increased by 124 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to data from IDC. And large swaths of the population are still offline – so there’s pent-up demand for cheap, sturdy 3G-enabled phones.
This article originally appeared on Tech in Asia.