How to buy a car using an IPhone 5?

My Kyrgyz cab driver sent an IPhone to his brother back home in Kyrgyzstan. The brother sold the phone, added some savings of his own and bought a car.

So the short answer to title is: by selling the phone.


Which leads us to the next question in your mind, how can the prices of a phone & a car be comparable? It can if you consider the following facts:

PART A ( The economic background of Kyrgyzstan)

  1. Kyrgyzstan is primarily a cash only economy – credit cards don’t exist, banks don’t give out loans.
  2. So if you have to buy a TV or car or even a house – you need to pay it by cash. Upfront. The whole amount.
  3. Most people can’t.
  4. So the economy is controlled in a manner that prices stay within reasonable limits.

PART B (Influx of Western Companies into such a market)

  1. As part of globalization/westernization people seek to have what they see on TV.
  2. A rich few are ready to pay any unreasonable amount for the satisfaction of owning something.
  3. Not using – owning.
  4. Which works very well for the companies selling them.
  5. Such commodities e.g. IPhone are shipped over.
  6. Add in something like a 500% markup, 4-5 different taxes.
  7. Since you are importing it all, the prices get multiplied by the prevailing exchange rate.

Combine PART A & PART B – and you can imagine the price of an IPhone come close to that of a car. Takes some imagination & suspension of disbelief.

At this point I should say, I am no expert and this came out of a random chat with a random cab driver – but I dug around a little and read a bit and all of it does seem logical.

Here are some less extreme examples that we can identify with.

  1. There are sunglasses in the market at a price for which you can buy a TV and then some.
  2. A cup of coffee in Starbucks in India costs more than a bus ticket.
  3. There are watches(Swiss of course) which you can sell and buy a couple of decent used cars.
  4. For the price of a couple of Italian suits, you can book a round the world air ticket.

My comparisons are definitely not on on the same scale of style or proficiency.

But how grand and invigorating a coffee has to be, that you could go to a different city for the same price? Can a handcrafted engineering of a fine watch ever compare to that of an automobile? Granted it loses just one second over 50 years.

All we pay for is our vanity. I have done the same. I do the same. Heck, probably I spend a lot more at times just in the hope I am getting a better cocktail or steak. I understand paying for the quality, paying for the artistry and the talent that goes behind the design of simple products even if it was a belt or a sock.

But while stepping out of the cab all that was on my mind was the disparity of prices in the same market. I was wondering if there was another country somewhere, where you could buy a car for the price of a super luxurious, extra fine handkerchief.


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