- In a recent visit, not a single unit of IPS was found for sale at electronic markets in Dhaka
- The biggest problem is the shortage of raw materials as goods are not coming from China since the coronavirus outbreak
- Demand for batteries for old IPS units has also shot up
- Batteries are produced in the country but it is time-consuming to make batteries after importing raw materials
Retail stores in Dhaka are almost out of stock of Instant Power Supply (IPS) units as city dwellers scramble for the electrical device to save themselves from scorching heat exacerbated by load shedding.
In a hectic search on Tuesday morning, this correspondent did not find even a single unit of IPS up for sale at electronic markets, such as Bangabandhu National Stadium Market, Baitul Mukarram Market and Nawabpur Electronics Market of Old Dhaka.
"All the IPS units in my shop were sold 15 days ago. I have sold at least 200 IPS units this month but now there is no supply," Amir Hossain, an IPS seller at Nawabpur Ershad Market in Old Dhaka, told The Business Standard.
"We have many customers coming in every day but have to send them back empty-handed," he added.
The government on 19 July began implementing an area-based load shedding programme across the country to take pressure off the national exchequer amid depleting foreign reserves and surging energy prices in the international market.
"All our old goods have been sold and we have not received any new supplies yet," Nazrul Islam, who owns an IPS shop at Stadium Market, told TBS.
"Since there were no power outages for the past few years, there was not much demand for IPS. But now the situation is completely the opposite, for which we traders were not prepared," he added.
Exhausted with the periodic power outages coupled with the sizzling heat, Ruhul Amin Sarkar, a resident of Kamalapur, bought an IPS from Moon Complex at Islampur of Old Dhaka.
"I have been compelled to come here to buy the IPS as our children cannot study in the sweltering weather although their annual examinations are approaching," he added.
He expressed his resentment that no schedule is being followed in load shedding, which he believes forces people to suffer more.
Ruhul Amin said he had earlier visited many markets for IPS but to no avail. Later, a shopkeeper told him that non-brand IPS is available in Islampur.
"Even when I came here, I saw non-brand IPS of Tk15,000 priced higher at Tk20,000-22,000," he went on.
Md Milon, owner of SM Cabinet and Electronics – a non-brand shop – at Moon Complex, said he has sold at least 500 IPS units since Eid-ul-Azha.
"Now demand for IPS has increased by 4-6 times. The biggest problem is the shortage of raw materials as goods are not coming from China since the coronavirus outbreak. Maybe after a few days, there will be a shortage of raw materials for non-brand items too," he added.
Md Sujan, another IPS entrepreneur from Patuatuli, told TBS that the price of iron sheets required for manufacturing IPS has increased by more than Tk100 per kg.
"Despite the surge in demand for IPS, there is not much profit due to the increase in the price of raw materials," he added.
Md Sujan also said that along with the increase in demand for IPS, demand for batteries for old IPS units has also shot up.
"Batteries are produced in the country but it is time-consuming to make batteries after importing raw materials. The sudden jump in demand makes it difficult to get batteries," he went on.
In Bangladesh, Rahimafrooz Group was the first to start IPS imports in 1993. Apart from Rahimafrooz, Butterfly, Navana, Singer, Hamko, Sony, Philips, Anik and Samsung brands also import the product.
IPS business was very profitable in the local market for almost two decades. But since the country attained self-sufficiency in electricity, the need for IPS dropped considerably 4-5 years ago. Many imported IPS units also remained unsold. But the market has become vibrant again with the return of load shedding.
Niaz Rahim, managing director of Rahimafrooz Group Limited, said, "There is a demand for IPS in the market, but the supply is not available accordingly. Demand has increased several times compared to supply since Eid-ul-Azha. Due to a lack of supply against demand, many retailers are turning away empty-handed."
"The crisis has arisen because the demand has been created all of a sudden. No importer was prepared for this. Sales have increased by three-four times since July," he added.
Niaz Rahim said sales would have been more, but it was not possible due to a lack of supply against demand.
"Now the demand for IPS is very high from customers. We hope to overcome this crisis in the next two to three months. However, prices are likely to rise further, as the dollar's appreciation has pushed up the cost of imports," he added.