The newest entrant in the market for tablets and eBook readers - dominated by the likes of Apple, Amazon and Samsung – is none other than the Pakistani military.
The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra, whose self-described mission is “to produce and support weapon systems for a high state of operational readiness of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)”, has started up a new commercial venture with a Chinese company, which an official told The Express Tribune was to “strengthen the national economy”.
The first three products produced by PAC are a computing tablet, a notebook and an eBook reader.
A press release issued at the launch of the project on December 29 notes that “for the joint production of JF-17, PAF had established sufficient facilities which are appropriate for the production of both defence and commercial products.”
The PAC official, who asked not to be named, told The Express Tribune that the joint venture with the Chinese company Innavtek had taken off with the initial offering of three products. “We plan to expand this in the future.”
The venture website, cpmc.pk, states that “Innavtek jointly developed two products with Avionics Production Factory which are successfully flying on fleet of our JF-17 aircraft and three more products are under co development phase.”
The official said that while PAC would manufacture the products, marketing was Innavtek’s responsibility.
He said the products were initially being marketed in Rawalpindi, but modalities needed to be finalised so it could expand to other cities including Lahore and Karachi. “We will get in touch with courier companies to see if we can reach a deal to transport them,” he said.
The competitively priced products, he said, have several benefits because they are being manufactured in Kamra. “It comes with a joint one-year warranty of PAC and Innavtek. Because PAC is producing it, it will ensure quality. We will also provide backup support,” the official said. In the first stage of this venture, PAC will manufacture the products locally but there are plans for an exchange of personnel to be trained in China and Pakistan respectively.
PAC’s plan to “strengthen the national economy” via its new commercial venture means it has to capitalise on “current trends”.
Jehan Ara, the president of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA), said she was unaware of the venture. She was skeptical that customers would buy PAC’s products just because they were manufactured by the Pakistani military. “People with a fixed budget will test products, read reviews and get recommendations from friends and then buy something. They don’t buy just because of a name. They will test it out of curiosity and put up reviews etc.” She also said governments around the world and in Pakistan buy computers from vendors based on pricing and reliability, and should not be forced to buy from a specific vendor.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2012.