Telecom sector: Pakistan to have 40 million smartphones by end of 2016

KARACHI:There will be 40 million smartphones in Pakistan by December 2016, according to market estimates, based on current trends in the e-commerce sector, says a major player.

According to sources in the e-commerce market, the estimate, along with the optimism surrounding it, is being driven by the recent growth of telecom sector, particularly the increase in number of mobile broadband users.

In Pakistan, third-generation (3G) and 4G mobile phone users stand at 14.6 million as of July 2015 and continue to grow, creating a huge demand for smartphones, which is the top selling category across all major e-commerce platforms.

Publicly available data shows mobile phone imports in terms of value and not in units, making it difficult to figure out category-wise imports. However, market sources say less than 20% of Pakistan’s monthly mobile phone imports comprises smartphones. This equation though is likely to change in a couple of years, they added.

More than two million users a month are looking to buy a phone online, according to Co-Founder Muneeb Maayr. To capitalise on this growing demand, major industry players from service providers (telecom operators) to mobile phone makers and an e-commerce platform have partnered with internet giant Google to promote online trade by offering exclusive discounts on mobile phone purchases just ahead of Eidul Azha.

Titled Google’s Tech Mela, the 10-day event, which goes live on September 11, is an online shopping festival which brings many new phones launched recently at discounted prices and deals from major mobile phone brands.

“With this event, Google aims to support the vibrant and growing culture of e-commerce in the country,” Maayr told The Express Tribune, adding it was an exciting platform to raise awareness and consumer adoption of e-commerce in Pakistan.

The participating companies include Samsung, Microsoft, Huawei, PTCL, Rivo, TPL Trakker, Innjoo, Infinix, Intex, Telenor and Zong which are offering products from tablets to personal tracker devices and data bundles.

“This is the first of many online shopping festivals to come to Pakistan, and smartphones are a good assortment to begin this festival with,” Maayr said, responding to a question about whether they planned to promote products other than smartphones.

According to him, Google’s regional head for Asia is in Pakistan for a week scoping out on how best to participate in the development of ecosystem for internet usage.

The country’s e-commerce market is still in its infancy and represents only 5% of conventional retail trade. However, the overall size of this fast growing segment has come close to $100 million, up by two-thirds from $60 million as of December 2014, said Chief Executive Officer Shayaan Tahir in a recent interview.

A bulk of the country’s e-commerce transactions originate from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, which comprise about 50% of customers, Maayr said, adding the remaining customer base is very thinly split between cities and towns nationwide.

With telecom operators rolling out 3G and 4G services in semi-urban and rural areas of the country – which usually don’t have outlets for branded products – the e-commerce market is likely to benefit a great deal.

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