Photos from Nepal's biggest tech trade show

caninfootside.JPG In mid-January, 400,000 Nepalis gathered at the Bhrikuti Mandap exhibition hall in Kathmandu to see the latest gadgets and technologies. Well, sort of. On its 16th year, CAN InfoTech, the biggest tech trade show in Nepal, displayed 238 stalls boasting everything from the Nokia N81 cell phone to the Sony NW-806 Walkman — both of which hit the US markets in the fall of 2007. But never mind the delay — here's a glimpse at what captured the attention of our fellow geeks across the globe.


Mobile apps are making headway into Nepal for the first time this year. According to the World Bank, 12% of the population had cell phones in 2007; this is a huge increase from 2000, when the figure was just hitting 3%.


An 8-terabyte storage device! Nepal's tech sector is by no means anywhere close to ours, but it's growing. 13% of households had TV sets in 2007 (compared to 3% in 2000) and 1.5% use the Internet (compared to 0.2% in 2000). Prices for phone calls and Internet connections are dropping.


Perhaps as a means to save already-scarce electricity, the Sony booth was lit up by giant dishes made of aluminum foil.


Laptops for sale were covered in cellophane wrap to prevent dirty fingers from touching them.

cyber crime cell.JPG

The government's Cyber Crime Cell, which was set up in 2007, investigates Internet-based crimes including child pornography, money laundering, and intellectual property.


The biggest sign at the convention hall was for the toilet.


John Hodgman makes his Kathmandu debut on an iMac screen. Apple products are imported directly from Apple Singapore, and are growing in popularity among the educated urban crowd. iMacs and MacBooks are relatively quickly to hit the market here, but there's still no sign of the iPhone — and it could be years before the iPad will get here, says Sanjay Gochha, founder of local tech marketing firm Neoteric Infomatique.

buddha power.JPG

Buddha Power is a local company that sells backup devices. I just liked the name.


Generators are huge business in a country with no electricity for 8-16 hours a day. "The main advantage of Nepal is that it has lower operating costs, an English speaking population, and software-skilled manpower," Neoteric's Golchha says. "But we also have inherent problems such as the shortage of power."

sony catalg.jpg

Sony shamelessly displays their 2008 Home Audio catalog on a magazine rack near their giant booth.


  1. Fascinating: in a way, it’s weird to see how little different life is for even the most remote individuals. I hate to say it but the tone of this article kind of rubbed me the wrong way; I wish EVERY trade show had toilet signs that big and not everyone – even in America – has a SONY stereo newer than 2008 in their homes (hell, last time I bought a SONY stereo was in 2001).

    Given enough time, these folks can leapfrog years of wasteful product improvements and arrive at a situation where every tech gadget is low-consumption, wireless and useful.

  2. This is crazy to see a article about the country I grew up in. I have actually been to the convention and it was quite cool growing up. Thanks for the article it is great to hear updates on the country I love.

  3. I was not sure before if they had Macs in Kathmandu. Thanks for the updates. It’s great to see Nepal slowly catching up with the rest of the world. In fact my impression is that in the world of communication tech the country is quite ahead of her counterparts in that part of the world.

  4. One day Chinese and Indian guys will make fun of American tech trade shows. That day is closer than you think. I’m sure Japanese guys can start laughing right now.

    1. Annon,

      Japan has been laughing at American Techs for many years now. Only the American techs are too dumb to realise.

  5. I attended this in 2006 when I was living and working over there – great fun.

    I know it looks basic to us but given the problems they face viz. iffy political system/bandha (strikes)/chronic infrastructural dodginess it’s a massive achievement that they can run things like this at all.

    I’ve still got one of the 32mb USB drives I bought there for 100 rupees each (about 60p at the time).


  6. Amazing that geeks look the same the world over. It’s as if there is an international language of geekiness!

  7. I’m actually amazed how advanced Kathmandu has become. I spent a month there in the early 90s and never even heard of a computer while I was there.

  8. -The fourth picture, I can’t say what were the dishes for but they weren’t for illumination.
    -The fifth picture, i was there, i didn’t see any of those laptops wrapped like that, And No, the hands i believe were as dirty as those of any citizen of a developed country. I don’t know what was the case with that particular piece but hands were allowed to touch and try the gadgets.
    -I like the way you present the facts regarding internet usage, TV sets, Mobile set users, if only they were placed where context suits.
    -Its not hard to guess Sony and Apple doesn’t have a big market here, they don’t need to be shameful to present any old systems.
    -I’m sorry but I don’t feel like this article is free of biases. Pointing the truth but exaggerating.
    Thank You for the article.

  9. Very wonderful to see creative comments above. But it’s just not fair to compare Nepal’s tech marketplace with that of US. Needs of Nepalese population that is struggling with problems right and left in every aspect of life cannot be same as that of people in US. Though obsolate in the developed world markets, many of these gadgets displayed in this show are still very high tech for majority of Nepalese population. Two year old technology in US may still be 30 year advanced in this poor nation. So it’s not a laughing matter. It’s the situation. But you all will certainly be surprised to know there are many Nepalese behind many of the high tech stuffs that you may be proudly buying in most current US market.

  10. Oh, you can get an iPhone in Kathmandu alright. It’s just not through “official” channels. They even have 3G.In fact, I know a guy there who has an iPhone 3G.

    The funny thing is the mobile internet doesn’t cost as much as you’d expect and guess what, you don’t have to pay for incoming phone calls.

  11. There is a lot that Western countries can do to help Nepal diplomatically, so as to ease tariff and trade restrictions for transshipments through India. Nepal’s aid requirements and balance-of-payments problems would be reduced if its neo-colonial status was successfully renegotiated and tariffs eliminated.

    In addition to elimination of tariffs on shipments into and out of Kolkata, the government of Nepal (a former client) requested a short, tariff-free overland trade corridor through Gorkhaland to Bangladesh. This would increase Nepal’s economic security while also aiding Bangladesh. Police who shake-down truckers heading out from the Port of Kolkata on Remount Road would suffer an income cut, but the benefit to Nepalis and Western donors would be significant.

    A third initiative would be assistance in establishing a land tenure system in Nepal so that investments in agriculture could be better secured and ecological refugees from India discouraged. Fourth: a national identity system in Nepal to help deal with the refugee crisis and protect Nepali sovereignty.

    Failure of large regional powers to aid Nepal diplomatically is keeping the country aid-dependent and not completely sovereign. The United States, in particular, appears to prefer pumping aid into Nepal rather than allowing Nepal to fix its underlying problems.

  12. nepal is unfortunately squeezed between china and india. there are no real nice roads to allow proper trade between china and nepal (himalayian mountain range in the way..) so nepals main trading partner is india… who also happens to not give a damn about nepal. sad sad sad. nepal is such a beautiful country

  13. Stuff are so behind in the country because of the heavy amount of taxes they go through while passing via india.
    And there are people in the country which are more familiar with technology and computers than 90% of the worlds urban popula
    As for the iphone, its there, and its there good. In fact, the iPad can be predicted to be there within a years time. Although apple is not willing to formally launch it in the country as due to our low GDP and stuff.

  14. This is why Nepal needs your help. Call us and send in your donations. For only $400 this convention can hire a graphic designer to draw a proper sign. For $4000 a communications major can set up a coherent corporate message for the trade show.

    Watch this video and see how Design Aid has helped a small Bangladeshi farmer lose his dependence on Comic Sans. What was done in Bangladesh can be done in Nepal. But we need your donations. Thank you.

  15. Okay there are a few things I’d want to add up.

    – CAN Infotech is not as regulated as one would hope for. Authority, the sellers as well as most of the attendees do not care!
    We geeks are aware of the shortcomings but the mass does not know and does not care.

    The sellers/vendors/retailers do not put up much effort to the event. You’ll get more stuff in the regular market with lesser hassle. I won’t even give it the credit of being a Tech Fair.

    – CAN has only got worse every year for the last couple of years, as is evident by the sick and ugly venue chosen. It used to be much better 4-5 years ago.

    – One could obviously make fun about the availability of tech goods here. Even I do. But I should clarify that new stuff does come to the market earlier than what has been projected here.
    Like this Nokia X6, it’s been available for quite some time here and it’s not a year old phone or (OMG) a 3 year old phone like the N81.

    The weird thing: you will even get an N70 around if you look closely enough. Yes, N70 which is what? 5 years old?
    Ergo, people do not care. For many people N70 might seem to be a high end phone, just because it’s tagged “N”.

    – As one can see, not much attention is paid towards conducting a smooth and fruitful event. The Sony laptop catalog might be old, but it might just be the catalog. You might be able to buy newer laptops.
    Sometimes you might not get latest laptops but you get the latest catalog. Lame.

    BTW many PC vendors all over the world have this sick habit of shelving old models just in the hope that they might be able to sell one.

    Many times the pricing is stupid. Yet some other times it is too good to be true.

    – I am amazed. Macs show up pretty quick. I myself am a Mac user and was surprised to be able to get the Oct 2008 Unibody MacBook Pro in December itself. It is at par and sometimes even earlier than the official Apple channels in India (brought out just for comparison). I’ve heard about Indian people buying Macs from Nepal on occasions more than one.

    – Getting an iPhone is admittedly a tough ordeal. No official channels for there’s no carrier locking policy till date (that’ll fail miserably here) and no significant benefit for Apple. Come on people! There are so many countries where you wont get the iPhone officially with warranty and stuff. It was a decision on Apple’s part.
    You will get unlocked sets in the grey market. But it’s still prohibitively expensive for us as of now. iPhone is not a phone everyone can easily buy without subsidy. Nowhere in the world.

    – Yeah we’ve had 3G for like 3.5 years now I guess? It’s expensive and limited, but it showed up earlier than it did in India. I’d not discount that.

    – It was lame on the part of the guy who told that iPad may take forever to show up here. It should be available within 1-2 months’ of international availability. The 3G version might not be easily available, so early; but the WiFi version definitely will.

    I am almost certain that there won’t be much takers though. Without widespread WiFi hotspots and affordable 3G, iPad or the iPhone are not going to make any headway here, even with the rich population.

    – Tech availability is totally haphazard. You will get fairly recent phones, laptops, but you might be in trouble if you want a good choice on decent earphones. You might face a dead end if you need a specific high end graphics card.
    Sometimes you’ll get the latest stuff, but check in for the rest of the year with the same vendor; it’s still the same stuff that is available, without much significant price reduction.
    That’s when things start to suck.

    – CAN is still fine for the common man, but the enthusiast defintely ends up dissapointed. It’s not a latest-gadgets-tech-fair. It’s more of a place where stuff is offloaded to the unaware layman.

    – It’s not like we care much though. We’ve got so many other grave and pressing issues to take care of; CAN is almost nothing.
    And it’s not like people in the US have everything. There are compromises everywhere.

    So yeah, go ahead and make fun. Doesn’t matter much in the end.

  16. Articles in the Jane Goodall tone are never a good idea. I think this is an interesting article that needs to take a different approach.

  17. Nepal could do better providing electricity. Bhutan, Nepal’s neighbor to the east, has so much hydropower that electricity is their biggest export.

    Nepal also needs to put a greater priority on getting communications out into the countryside – with solar repeaters, wi-fi and high-gain antennas, backbones can be cheap. With smartphones and netbooks access devices can be affordable, at least sharing a few per village to start. This allows farmers to get weather reports, find out market prices, contract with buyers, and order goods. In the future, it may allow serving recorded lectures and other materials to students (which can cost less than $50 per student-year with classes of 10 or more, or even less for audio-only).

  18. Saddest takeaway of this article and the comments: iPhone penetration is taken as some kind of symbol of advancement.

    That’s kind of like comparing cigarette sales to advancement.

    Personally, I’m more interested in the market penetration of the better (cheaper, more open) phones running Linux or Android, and the uses to which these open portable computers are being put.

  19. Totally unresearched and made desperately laugh page. I am a nepalese living in kathmandu valley for last 2 years.


    1) This trade show is called CANN InfoTech and has been going on for the last 10 years. Previously it used to be held in Birendra International Convention Centre (BICC) which is state of art facility. The reason it is being held in that filthy place is because BICC is now being used for meetings for constitutional assembly because the nepalese parliament has only seats for 350 people and electorates for the assembly are 601.
    The place is 30 years old, very awkward in infrastructure but the only other place which can accomodate more than half a million visits.

    2) i have been using iphone for last 2 years

    3) my iPad is coming within next week. Already ordered and advance paid

    4) This trade show is more dumping ground ( a sort of stock clearance). Reason being lack of moderation.

    5) the laptop shown kept in plastic looks acceptable. With expected half to one million visits, this is bound to be destroyed

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