Edison, the parent company of mobile handset brand Symphony, hopes to invest a few hundred crore taka in different sectors of the Bangladeshi economy in the next eighteen months, ranging from e-commerce to electrical appliances, says its top executive.
“Our target is to increase our presence in many consumer segments,” says the group's Managing Director Jakaria Shahid. “We aim to have a substantial larger footprint in Bangladesh within a few years.”
According to its website, the group's annual turnover stood at $298 million in 2014, with growth of 21 percent over the previous year. In 2014, the group employed more than 1,000 people.
Edison is now investing in manufacturing, real estate, the leather industry, distribution and power transformers, among others. The company has opened an export-oriented footwear factory in Gazipur at a cost of about Tk 80 crore.
“By 2020, we plan to have invested about Tk 50 crore in power transmission and distribution businesses, with a factory already established in Keraniganj for this purpose,” says Shahid.
There are also plans for brickworks to be set up at Sreenagar in Munshiganj, in partnership with international company Hexagon.
Edison has already established itself in the city's real estate sector and is aiming to increase mobile handset market share from 40 to 45 percent by 2020. “Our smartphone sales are growing rapidly and will account for close to half the country's total handset sales within three years,” says Shahid. Meanwhile, a plan to establish a device assembly plant has been shelved due to the country's tax structure which Shahid says is unfavourable to such kind of investment.
“Because most of the mobile phone components are imported from China, we don't think much value addition in Bangladesh will be possible at this stage,” he says. At present there is a 25 percent tax on handset imports, while the duty on equipment is 45 percent.
However, if the government takes a strategic decision to foster assembly plants with a friendlier tax structure, Edison will reconsider. “For an assembly plant to be internationally competitive, import duty on equipment would need to be below 5 percent,” he says.
The company imported 1.16 crore mobile phones last year, of which 34 lakh were smartphones.
The industry total on handset imports for the same year is 3.12 crore, according to the Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association.
Edison has meanwhile embarked on providing value added and content generation services including applications and games development.
It is also working on a mobile phone payment system, planned for market release shortly. “We are working closely with the central bank to launch the new service,” says Shahid.
Edison markets two tablets though its market share is not large in the field, but the group's e-commerce platform pickaboo.com is performing well.
“We are trying to boost the online platform because it's a segment with huge prospects,” says Shahid.