Relatively cheap mobile phones sourced from China are making giant strides in Cambodia, but leading brands say they are not feeling the pinch when it comes to market share
Distributors have said the number of Chinese-sourced mobile phones being sold in Cambodia each month is climbing rapidly.
Not only are they cheaper than leading brands, but some have features including the ability to use two SIM cards, built-in radio and TV receivers and MP3 and MP4 players.
The Ky Hout company said it imports between 6,000 and 8,000 phones monthly for distribution in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang.
The sales manager, who would not allow her name to be used, said customers liked the fact that the phones were substantially cheaper than the competition.
She said sales were up tenfold since the start of the year. "Previously we imported only 300 to 600 of these phones each month that sell for between US$35 and $100 each," she said. "Our sales of Nokia phones have dropped 80 percent."
Srey Touch, the owner of another importer, the 03 Company, agreed that sales of Chinese-made phones were up sharply.
"We import new model phones two or three times a month, with up to 500 phones each time," Srey Touch said.
"The phones sell especially well during the big national holidays such as Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben and the Water Festival."
But the increasing number of imports is not good news for everyone. Sok Pov, who sells phones at Pochentong and Choam Chao markets, said some companies avoid paying import duties on cellphones, which is not only illegal but makes competing with them on price impossible.
Only 10 of the 15 companies that import cellphones pay import tax, he said, and the untaxed phones often lacked warranties.
"But our company imports phones legally," he said. "The cellphones we offer are standardised, and we offer six-month to one-year warranties depending on the model."
Major players hold firm
Representatives of Nokia and Sony Ericsson told the Post their market share was not being hit by the cheaper competition.
Yoeun Makara, the retail sales manager at the K Tong Huot Telecom Co, which is not related to the Ky Hout company and imports Nokia phones, said sales at the company's eight branches have held up despite the global economic crisis, although he refused to provide figures.
"Sales are stable," he said. "Moreover, 80 percent of our customers choose to buy Nokia because it is strong and robust, and they like the new touchscreen models."
Chea Mony, the head of marketing at Sony Ericsson in Cambodia, is also bullish. He said sales were up at least 10 percent this year.
"The influx of Chinese cellphones creates opportunities for many users, but it is not an obstacle for Sony Ericsson because competition goes beyond price, and Sony Ericsson offers many different prices including low, medium and high," he said.
So Khun, minister of posts and telecommunications, said in May that 4.23 million of the country's 13.4 million citizens have mobile phones, and that the nation has just 42,000 landlines.
Nine mobile phones companies operate in Cambodia: Beeline, Excell, Hello, MFone, Metfone, Mobitel, qb, Smart and Star-Cell.