The production of mobile phones by local manufacturing plants has surpassed the number of mobile phone imports in the country.

During January to July 2021, the production of mobile phones by local manufacturing plants came in at 12.27 million whereas mobile phone imports were recorded at 8.29 million, according to a report of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

“Indeed, the credit goes first to the PTA for bringing in the Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS), which effectively stopped the smuggling of phones. But it were the ministries of IT and industries, together with the Engineering Development Board (EDB), that brought the right policy,” said ICT expert Parvez Iftikhar.

This trend reflects a positive uptake on PTA’s Mobile Device Manufacturing (MDM) Authorisation regulatory regime whereby local manufacturing within the first year of the regime introduction has resulted in production of 12.27 million phones in a short span of seven months including 4.87 million 4G smartphones.

“There are several ways by which this development will help the local economy,” said Umair Gadit, Co-founder and CEO of Savyour, in comments to The Express Tribune. “It will result in direct and indirect job opportunities for Pakistanis.”

The local manufacturing of renowned brands would help curb smuggling of non-duty-paid mobile phones in Pakistan, he said, adding that exports would result in an increase in the foreign exchange reserves.

Globally, these brands support the whole ecosystem, which will result in more foreign direct investment (FDI) and infrastructure upgrades through public-private partnerships.

The successful implementation of DIRBS along with favourable government policies, including the mobile manufacturing policy, has created an environment conducive for mobile device manufacturing in Pakistan.

It has also contributed positively to the mobile ecosystem by eliminating the counterfeit device market and by providing a level playing field for commercial entities and has created trust amongst consumers due to the formulation of standardised legal channels for all sorts of device imports.

It is important to highlight that the government introduced a comprehensive mobile manufacturing policy to encourage and attract manufacturers to establish their units in Pakistan, a PTA statement added.

The PTA in light of the policy issued MDM regulations on January 28, 2021. Till now, 26 companies have been issued MDM authorization, enabling them to manufacture mobile devices in Pakistan.

The companies include renowned brands eg Samsung, Nokia, Oppo, Tecno, Infinix, Vgotel, QMobile, etc.

Focus should now be on boosting exports of mobile phones, said Iftikhar.

“All parts are imported, so assemblers will only make money through low taxes,” said Pakistan Tajir Ittehad Chairman Sabir Shaikh.

Lower prices and tax rebates would enable the lower income bracket to own a smartphone, which would of course help increase the overall internet penetration in the country, said Gadit.

“This development would also enable the gig economy – a whole new cohort of population will now be empowered to carry side jobs and raise the lifestyle of their families.”

From the e-commerce perspective, this would help a common Pakistani to establish a business and export through Daraz and Amazon, which would boost foreign exchange, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2021.

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