We have got great news—you can now buy the most hyped phone of the year in Nepal – the Nothing Phone (1), courtesy of Hamrobazar. A phone with such immense market buzz arriving so quickly in Nepal sounds great and all, but when giving it a second thought, the cracks begin to show. Like… how is it possible and how is it legal even? Stick with us as we peel off the layers of this whole “Nothing phone (1) on Hamrobazar” fiasco.
The phone (1) costs GBP 399
Back in April, the Government of Nepal (GoN) imposed an import ban on 10 categories of non-essential items, which also included phones over the price of USD 600. The ban was a low-key effort by the government to manage the depleting foreign exchange reserve.
And a couple of months later in July, the government decided to extend the ban with a few changes here and there. The most notable one being the extension of the import ban on phones over USD 300. Considering the current state of Nepal’s economy, the policymakers saw banning said imports as an important way to minimize the outflow of national forex reserve.
But here we are—talking about Nothing phone (1) that costs GBP 399 in the UK for the entry-level model, which roughly translates to USD 480 in today’s market. Nothing is a UK-based company, by the way. And even when referring to its price in India—where the phone (1) is the cheapest—it still converts to a little over USD 400. So it begs the question how is the Nepal government even allowing all this?
How is the government even allowing all this?
Long story short, it is not. At least technically. Nothing, being a new company, has not officially set its foot in a lot of markets including Nepal. In fact, the phone (1) isn’t available in the US and Canada either. So for Nothing to officially enter the Nepali market, it first needs to appoint authorized distributors. But that hasn’t happened so far.
And given the existing import policy, Nothing wouldn’t want to either since the phone (1) costs well above the legal threshold. Therefore, all units of the Nothing phone (1) to arrive in Nepal, including the ones on Hamrobazar, are grey products.
A few of them might be personal imports like from someone who’s returning to Nepal from India; that’s always possible. But the vast majority of these phones have not followed the proper official procedures, which points to tax evasion and whatnot.
Hamrobazar is promoting an illegal product
Now, it’s sad to see that Hamrobazar is providing a platform to sell such illegal products. Not to mention, the company is even promoting them! Hamrobazar’s rules page clearly mentions (in bold) that it does not allow ads that are deemed illegal as per Nepalese law. But the platform doesn’t seem to be doing a great job screening the listings.
We all know that it’s an online classified marketplace with hundreds of sellers uploading products daily. So, one can assume that the illegal listings of the Nothing phone (1) might have flown under the radar of the screening team.
But all that benefit of the doubt goes down the drain when you see Hamrobazar promoting said listings via its official social media handles. Even the company’s CEO Rohit Tiwari has shared the post on his personal timeline.
Once again, it is possible that Hamrobazar’s team, including the CEO, might still be unaware of how the phone (1) got here. This just shows sheer negligence from the team to learn about a particular product before promoting them on their platform.
The incompetence of the system
We know a lot of you will read this and might still go and order the phone (1) from Hamrobazar. After all, as I mentioned earlier, there is no sign of it launching officially in Nepal anytime soon. So what’s wrong with getting a phone that you like?
If you fall in this group, you are directly promoting the grey market, which, you may argue is not something that normal Joe like you and I can control. I mean, if Nepal’s legal system had been competent enough, there would not even be a grey market in the first place.
There have been multiple talks, time and again, about Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) implementing Mobile Device Management System (MDMS) to shut down grey phones and discourage illegal imports. But MDMS has been nothing short of a running joke within the smartphone industry in Nepal as the system is yet to see the light of day—even more than a year after it was slated to go live.
Back to the phone (1)
While MDMS was meant to discourage grey sellers, NTA’s failure to implement it has actually had an inverse impact on the market. No wonder there are multiple sellers importing phones like Nothing phone (1) illegally and selling them on public platforms so casually.
The grey importers are also making huge profits on a per unit basis on the phone, more than what an authorized distributor would normally be allowed. After all, they don’t pay the 13% VAT, 5% excise duty, and all the other variable or fixed costs that an official vendor would bear.
What’s even worse is that it’s not just such a niche/enthusiast phone market that grey importers exploit. They even undercut authorized distributors in high-demand products like the iPhones, thus suffocating legitimate businesses.
What’s it for the general consumer?
Besides getting the phones of your choice even at cheaper-than-normal prices, there is no other reason to get products from the grey market. First, you won’t get a VAT bill for your purchase. After-sales service for such phones is pretty much absent too.
And don’t fall for their promised warranties as there is no guarantee that these stores will even be in business tomorrow! Even if they are, don’t expect company-level after-sale service on your phone since they simply don’t have the same access to repair parts as the authorized distributors.
If you use the phone where it’s not officially available, it won’t receive timely software updates either. It’s no secret that smartphone companies prioritize OTA upgrades in regions based on the user base.
And by some miracle, if MDMS actually goes live somehow, the system can simply shut your device out of all network providers in Nepal—which means you won’t be able to use your SIM card on such phones.
- Watch: MDMS explained