KARACHI: As customers flock at the shop of Amjad Mansoor asking for the latest Indian goods ranging from fairness creams to confectioneries and even razor blades and locks, he feels that the prices would be fair for customers and profit margins much higher for traders if these items were coming via legal trade.
Mansoor, who claims to be in retail and wholesale business in consumer goods for his entire life, says that Indian goods are in high demand in the entire country but these are smuggled illegally.
It is no secret that our import list with India declares hardly 30-40 items, but the local markets are aw3ash with goods coming form the neighbouring country.
The popularity of these goods is so much so that even if local Pakistani companies start manufacturing the same, people would still ask for the original Indian product, Mansoor told The News. “Although the Bio Amla Hair Oil, which is the same as the Dabur Amla Hair Oil of Indian origin, and made with the same formula as of Dabur’s, people still decline the local oil in favour of the Indian one,” he said. Similarly, even if Fair & Lovely introduced the same formula of Ayurvedic cream followed in India, customers would still prefer the Indian product.
“This demand comes in the market as soon as a commercial is shown on Indian television channels, and we get demand requests within an hour,” Amjad Mansoor said. However, any new Indian product in demand over here takes about a month to reach the Pakistani markets, said he. “Since these products are not registered in the import lists, it is obvious they reach through illegal means.”
Speaking about the immensity of the Indian products in Pakistani markets, he said that only cosmetic products imported from the neighbour make a list of a minimum 225 items, including shampoos, deodorants, sprays, masks, creams, oils, gels and products by other famous brands as Himalayas, etc. Besides these, there are health drinks like Bournvita, Complan, toiletries by Paras, medicines and pain relievers, eg, by Himani, and many other products. Quite a few of these items have little or no production in Pakistan.
Amjad Mansoor claimed that the razor blades used by almost 80 per cent barbers in Pakistan come from India. “About 80 per cent of the barbers in Pakistan use Indian blades, of brands like Ashok, Tentwin, Panama, Topaz, etc, all of which are smuggled into Pakistan regularly and we have no local companies producing them in abundance,” said another dealer. He did not mention the leading local manufacturer of shaving products Treet and global leader Gillet that have market presence in every nook and corner of the country. “Pakistanis trust in Indian products can be gauged from the fact that people have now started asking for Godrej locks too instead of the Chinese ones as they say they are more reliable,” he added.
Talking about how these items reach shopping hubs, Mansoor said there are three methods of illegal trade in Indian goods, personal baggage of passengers coming from India, Afghan Transit Trade shipments getting back into Pakistan, and through diplomatic containers.
He disclosed that some traders have contacts with senior officials of the Indian embassy and in the customs department and small traders can get almost any Indian item from them.
Speaking about the loss caused to the exchequer and consumers by the illegal trade, he said that it is immense. “In illegal trade these goods pass through multiple hands, from Dubai to ATT to Peshawar and then finally to the major cities. Each dealer keeps a profit of at least 10 per cent which is all passed on to the customers,” he said. “I sell a Bournvita bottle for Rs155 in wholesale. I would sell it for Rs80, the same price as in Dubai, if the trade was legal,” he explained.
Besides, he said that it is an even bigger loss to the Government of Pakistan, which is deprived of the legal revenue.
“At customs illegal traders tell the worth of a $0.15 million container to be only $10,000, from which the tax loss to the government can easily be gauged,” he said.
Siraj Qasim Teli, a senior businessman, who has advocated trade with India, said that unlike common perception, it is in our favour if we conduct open trade with India. He said that given the right business agreement in which mutual interest is kept in mind, Pakistan could benefit from the growing Indian economy.
Since the Government of Pakistan is aware that trade is taking place through illegal means, and people and businessmen want trade with India expanded, the two governments should think why there should not be open and expanded trade relations between Pakistan and India as it would benefit them both.
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