Demand for laptop defies dim forecasts

Some 4.01 lakh units of laptops were imported in the first nine months of the year, up about 60 percent year-on-year, as people’s appetite for computing solutions on the go continues to grow.

During the period, about 80,000 units of desktop computers were brought into Bangladesh, which is more or less the same as a year earlier, according to the International Data Corporation, a US-based market intelligence firm.

The average laptop price in Bangladesh is Tk 40,000, meaning the market value of the imported laptops is about Tk 1,600 crore.

Globally, the demand for laptops is on the wane, but in Bangladesh it is the opposite, said ASM Abdul Fattah, chairman of Global Brand (Pvt.) Limited, one of the leading laptop and desktop computer importers in the country.

The growth has been about 10-15 percent in recent years and it will certainly continue over the next few years.

“I have no doubt that over the next five years our market will grow at this rate as we have just started to embrace the digital world — we have huge untapped market left.”

A large number of laptop buyers are now from the rural areas, said Fattah, whose company distributes Dell, Lenovo and Asus-branded notebooks.

In the first nine months, HP accounted for 36 percent of the laptop imports, followed by Dell at 26 percent, Lenovo 17 percent, Asus 14 percent, Acer 4 percent and other brands 18 percent, according to IDC.

Dell’s projected laptop shipment for 2017 is 5.60 lakh, according to M Atiqur Rahman, country manager of the American computer technology company.

“This number might be achieved, so it will be the highest yet for Dell in Bangladesh.”

Of the total imports, 60 percent are notebooks, which the students prefer. “We found huge potential in this segment, so we have doubled the manpower in 2017 than last year,” he added.

A few years ago, IDC had predicted that from 2017 the laptop market will go through degrowth even in third-world countries like Bangladesh as tablets will take over.

“But that has been proven wrong for this market,” said the country manager of a top brand.

The country manager of another brand operating in Bangladesh has shared the IDC report with The Daily Star but requested not to mention his or his company’s names as a nondisclosure agreement was signed with the global research firm.

“We had planned to reshape our business but the Bangladeshi people prove that prediction wrong.”

In the first nine months of 2017, the government has purchased about 60,000 laptops from the company and next year it has commissioned another 2.50 lakh laptops for use in various projects, he added.

However, Rahman from Dell said next year might be crucial as it will be an election year. Describing customers’ behaviour, Fattah said traditionally Bangladeshi customers like high-value products and sometimes they do not even calculate the value for money. Even for entertainment purposes some buy laptops with high configuration.

Most of the imported laptops are coming from China, Singapore and Malaysia, he said.

Considering the high import volume, the government is also encouraging local assembling and has invited both local and international entrepreneurs to take up this opportunity.

Local brand Walton has already started assembling notebooks in its hi-tech park at Gazipur.

But both Fattah and the top officials of other leading global brands said the interest is scant.

“No doubt Bangladesh is a big market but the ecosystem for assembling is not ready yet,” he added.

Mustafa Jabbar, president of Bangladesh Computer Samity, said the country will have more than five crore students in the next five years and half of them will use laptops.

“It means all the potential of the market is still left,” he said, adding that the zero duty on importing computer parts presents a glorious opportunity for investors.

There is no duty on importing laptops either, according to Jabbar, also the president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services.

Subsequently, he urged the government to impose tax on laptop imports to encourage local assembly.

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