‘Made in Pakistan’ mobile phones meet 95% demand

Domestic production saves 15-20% forex as nearly all global brands now locally assembled

Salman Siddiqui June 23, 2024
The telecommunication authority says that MICO has been registered as a Significant Social Media Company (SSMC) under Rule 7 (6) of the requisite provision. PHOTO: FILE


Pakistan is now assembling almost all global brands of mobile phones locally, increasing the ‘Made in Pakistan’ production to 95% of the local demand, while the share of imported phones (finished products) has reduced to merely 5%. The domestic production is saving around 15-20% in foreign exchange, as local assemblers are still importing almost all mobile phone parts from foreign manufacturers.

In a comprehensive report based on Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) data and titled ‘Pakistan Market – Local Manufacturing/Assembly of Mobile Phones up 55% year-on-year in May 2024’, Topline Research Deputy Director Sunny Kumar said that in 2016, only 1% (0.29 million units) of mobile phones were assembled locally in Pakistan, with 99% (21.36 million units) being imported.

“However, during January-May 2024, Pakistan imported only 5% (0.75 million units) of its mobile phones, while local manufacturing/assembly accounted for 95% (13.08 million units).” Karachi Electronic Dealers Association former chairman Idrees Memon said the country had also started exporting a notable quantity of ‘Made in Pakistan’ phones, mostly to Middle Eastern countries. “The imposition of 18% sales tax on the phones in the budget 2024-25 (effective July 1, 2024) is anticipated to hamper exports,” he added.

Memon, also a former president of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), confirmed that except for Apple, almost all global brands (mainly Chinese ones) are being locally assembled. The local production is saving “some 70% in foreign exchange,” he estimated, adding that duty on import of mobile phone kits is nominal at Rs3,000-5,000 per unit compared to an average duty worth Rs30,000 on finished units – saving up to 90% in taxes for local assemblers.

He said some 18-20 companies are manufacturing branded phones under significant setups in Pakistan. Many more companies are involved in local assembling, providing direct and indirect employment to hundreds of thousands of people in the country.

The demand for phones has surged significantly post-Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan, as hundreds of thousands of people switched to digital solutions using smartphones. Consequently, the value of phone imports in US dollars increased threefold in the outgoing fiscal year compared to the last year.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ (PBS) data, the import of mobile phones (CKD/CBU) surged 214% to $1.62 billion in the first 10 months of FY24 compared to $516.5 million in the same period of the last year.

Topline Research’s Kumar further said that local mobile companies manufactured/assembled 2.23 million units (up 55% year-on-year) in May 2024. This brings total local production to 13.1 million units in the first five months of 2024, soaring by 168% compared to the same period of the last year.

This improvement is mainly led by import restrictions last year coupled with gradual economic recovery. Pakistan now fulfils 95% of its mobile phone demand through local manufacturing/assembly, compared to a 5-year (2019-2023) average of 67% and an 8-year (2016-2023) average of 47%.

“All mobile brands except iPhone are now being manufactured/assembled in Pakistan,” he said.

Over the past three years, Pakistan has undergone a significant shift from imported mobile phones to local manufacturing and assembly. This transformation followed the government’s announcement of a local mobile manufacturing policy in 2020, aimed at encouraging international mobile players to establish assembly plants in Pakistan.

The shift towards locally manufactured/assembled mobile phones is also driven by their affordability, “offering a price gap of 15-20% compared to imported mobile phones of the same build quality.”

Within the locally assembled mobile phones of 13.08 million units during the five months of 2024, 62% (8.1 million units) are smartphones, while the remaining 38% (4.98 million units) are 2G phones.


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