Uzbeks to Launch New Smartphone Firm
Published on: 9th Jun 2014
Uzbekistan, the only Central Asian country making smartphones, should reap economic benefits from the growing mobile technology industry, industry watchers said.
Olive Telecom is planning to release its first batch of smartphones this July, becoming the third smartphone manufacturer in Uzbekistan, behind Artel and UZTE. Olive Telecom already makes tablet computers.
"Right now, Uzbekistan produces approximately 600,000 mobile phones per year, a figure that could grow if a new player joins the market," Sanjar Narysov, an analyst from Ekonomicheskii Vestnik, said. "Production could increase to 2m-2.5m units per year. This has become a significant industrial sector that could make good money for Uzbekistan."
With such growth, Uzbekistan someday should be able to meet its domestic consumer demand as well as that of neighbouring Central Asian countries.
"In coming years, UZTE is planning to export about 10% of its output; that is, potentially about 50,000 phones [a year]," Narysov said. "At an average price of US $150-200 (344,228-458,971 UZS) per telephone, these exports could bring up to US $10m (22.9 billion UZS) to Uzbekistan a year."
Cell phones in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan had almost 20m cell phone users in March, according to official data.
"Consumer demand within the country is great, although for now most Uzbeks use imported phones," Aleksey Potanin, owner of a mobile phone store in Tashkent, said.
The first 5,000 phones from Olive will consist of two models: a budget and a "luxury" version, which will cost US $110 and $265 (252,434 and 608,136 UZS) each, respectively, the company said.
Artel and UZTE have growth plans, too.
"Artel was Uzbekistan's first mobile phone producer," Nodir Mirzakarimov, an Artel spokesman, said. "From the very beginning we attracted a lot of attention. And everything worked out for us: Artel telephones went on sale at the beginning of 2013, and we now have four models. ... The company's plans include expanding production to up to 2m phones per year."
"We focus on adapting our telephones to meet the needs of Uzbek consumers," Mirzakarimov said. "This means offering Uzbek and other languages, as well as special apps and additions. For example, we built in ring tones with familiar Uzbek melodies. We're also striving to drive out foreign competitors with our low prices."
UZTE opened a US $3m (6.9 billion UZS) factory last year in Syr Darya Oblast and plans to manufacture as many as 500,000 telephones per year. Like Artel, UZTE offers four models.
"We've positioned ourselves as the 'national' telephone brand,"
Yekaterina Markeyeva, a UZTE spokeswoman, said. "UZTE is creating a product
especially for Uzbeks, which is stimulating the information and communications
technology sector's development and creating jobs for young specialists."
Response to Uzbek phones
The public has received the Uzbek phones well.
"Uzbek-produced smartphones ... have been especially designed for the Uzbek market - they're inexpensive, easy to obtain and high quality," Kirill Altman, a Tashkent ad agency director, said. "And although for right now only Uzbeks are interested in them, I think that soon Uzbek brands will become competitive in the entire region."
"I use one of the locally made telephones, and I can say that I've very satisfied with the value for my money," Tashkent resident Mansur Ismailov said. "Moreover, they have a one-year guarantee and service centres for fixing them, which is convenient. I really hope that domestic manufacturers ... will continue to improve."
This article was originally published by Central Asia Online.