Telephone Shilpa Sangstha stages a comeback
Telephone Shilpa Sangstha (TSS) managed to sell 13,825 units of its DOEL-branded laptops in fiscal 2018-19 as the once promising state-owned computer assembler makes a spirited fight for survival.
It assembled a total of 14,350 units last fiscal year, which is markedly higher than its output in recent years, according to the annual report of the Posts and Telecommunications Division.
The TSS’s production was on pause about two years back for fund shortages and quality concerns; it resumed from early 2018, according to senior officials of the TSS.
Subsequently in fiscal 2017-18, the TSS managed to log in 300 units of DOEL S1561 and 100 units of DOEL Advanced Core i5 laptops. That year its sales were 538 units, a portion of which it furnished from its leftover stock from previous years.
“We are now getting a few orders from government offices but their requirements are very nominal,” said Fakhrul Haider Chowdhury, managing director of the TSS.
In the last one week, the TSS got an order for 50 units from the ICT division and another 100 from another organisation.
“But this is peanuts from a laptop plant. We need bigger orders from government offices. Otherwise, it will become tough to carry on the venture.”
He went on to state that the quality of their assembled laptops has improved.
“There are no complaints from customers,” he said, adding that to keep up the quality, the TSS is now assembling only three models, down from 11 models a few years back.
The laptop project was launched in 2010, a year after the Awami League government came to power, with a view to realising its Digital Bangladesh vision.
It started off with a laptop retailing at Tk 10,000, which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina unveiled on October 11, 2011.
But the fervour surrounding the model soon crashed and burned as its performance was not up to the mark. The model logged in sales of only a few hundred units. Until fiscal 2016-17 the TSS assembled 63,245 laptops and managed to sell 58,750 units.
In fiscal 2016-17, 4,495 units were sold; in fiscal 2014-15, it was 4,550 units. Figures were not available for fiscal 2015-16.
Of the total sales, most laptops were taken by the education ministry, the telecom division’s postal department, ICT division and the army.
All three have complained of poor quality and not getting after-sales service, said a top telecom division official.
However, the TSS MD said their market response is now quite good and they have ensured more presence in different cities.
Chowdhury said they are suffering from a shortage of quality manpower.
“We have developed two production lines and most of the time one line lies idle for a shortage of orders and manpower.”
Chowdhury went on to urge the government to give them more orders so that they can prove their quality.
Currently, after reducing the taxes for different equipment in fiscal 2016-17, other local entrepreneurs have started assembling different kinds of laptops and Walton is leading the way.
The TSS also assembles some other products like mobile charger, battery, smart electric meter and PBX phone systems and has plans to assemble mobile handsets.