An unbelievable price, big political names at the launch and a Make in India tag. Noida-based Ringing Bells had everything going for the Freedom 251, the world’s cheapest phone priced at just Rs 251, or under $5.
However, a lot of people, especially in the smartphone industry are complaining about the price. Then there are reports that what was supposed to have been Made in India was actually Made in China, that too a few years ago under the name Adcom Ikon 4. There was also the UI, which copies the Apple iPhone and could potentially land Ringing Bells with a lawsuit.
‘Make In India’ is defined as a nation-building initiative devised to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub and Freedom 251 defies that very notion eloquently.
No wonder most of the tech world is also unhappy. “It is not the question how Ringing Bells managed to bring down the price; rather it is worrying to see the government wholeheartedly supporting a company whose existence itself is a question,” the CEO of a reputed tech company told IndianExpress.com on the condition of anonymity. He added, “One may not like Freedom 251’s existence but it is equally impossible to ignore this product.”
As of now it seems Ringing Bells wants to sell rebranded Adcom phones in India. That is not the issue. The problem is the use of the ‘Make In India’ tag which a lot of Indian companies are taking very seriously.
Some in the Indian tech community are wondering if the government is really serious about its pet project. A tech CEO whose company has been assembling most of its products in India said: “We appreciate what Ringing Bells is trying to do, it is trying to connect the next billion Indians, but putting
Indian flag at the back of the device is not acceptable especially when the device is not even assembled in India.” He too did not wish to be named.
There is another factor here: so far, Ringing Bells has not even applied for BIS certification, mandatory to sell phones in India.
Whether the government likes it or not, this cheap smartphone has turned the focus on its Make in India initiative and how easy it is for companies to misuse its tag.