Updated: June 28, 2016 9:09:48 am
Ringing Bells, which launched Freedom 251, the world’s cheapest smartphone in India, claims it is now ready to deliver the phone to customers.
Freedom 251 priced at Rs 251 (approximately $4) will be delivered to customers by June 30, insists the company and its owners, even though no one has actually seen the handset and many have dismissed Ringing Bells as a Ponzi scheme.
Here’s a look at what has happened so far in the Ringing Bells Freedom 251 saga.
Delivery promised on June 30, promises world’s cheapest LED TV
According to IANS, Ringing Bells’ Founder and CEO Mohit Goel has promised deliveries from June 30.
“We are ready with nearly two lakh ‘Freedom 251’ handsets. We will start delivery from June 30,” Goel said, adding that once he is done with this first phase of delivery (of two lakh phones), he will open registration again for those who wish to buy the handset.
The company had in mid-February planned to deliver 25 lakh handsets before June 30. It claimed to have received over seven crore registrations before its payment gateway crashed within three days.
“We learned from our mistakes and decided to go silent till we come out with the product. Now we have a 4-inch, dual-SIM phone ready for delivery. I feel vindicated,” Goel told IANS.
Ringing Bells is not just pitting itself as a smartphone maker, but also wants to launch the world’s cheapest 32-inch high-definition LED television — also called “Freedom”.
“These will be the cheapest television sets in India and will be available for less than Rs 10,000. Within two days, the delivery would be made and we will sell them online,” Goel said, adding the company currently has one lakh such pieces in stock.
Delivery promised on June 28
While Ringing Bells has now set June 30 as the d-day when this device might actually reach customers, earlier the company had given June 28 as the final delivery date. A PTI report had quoted Mohit Goel as saying deliveries will start June 28.
“We will start shipment of Freedom251 from June 28 to customers who paid for it earlier on COD (cash-on-delivery) basis,” Goel was quoted saying by PTI.
It seems Goel has now changed his mind, and shifted the date to June 30. Whether this changes again, we’ll have to see.
Freedom 251 smartphone: Noida police register FIR against Ringing Bells owner
The police registered the case under Section 420 (cheating) of IPC and the IT Act and owner of Ringing Bells Mohit Goel and company president Ashok Chaddha were named in the FIR.
Somaiya, in his complaint, had said it was not possible to manufacture a smartphone at Rs 251 and the owner of the company was fooling the people. “Primary investigation found the matter fit for FIR. A case has been lodged and a team has been constituted to investigate the case,” SSP, S Kiran had said at the time.
Adcom threatens to sue Ringing Bells
When Ringing Bells had first launched Freedom 251, it gave out some ‘review units’ of the device as well and it was discovered, this was actually a different phone by another company called Adcom. Ringing Bells has simply erased the Adcom branding using a whitener.
In March, Adcom had threatened legal action against Ringing Bells. While Ringing Bells president Ashok Chadha said they only gave Adcom handsets as “samples” to a section of the media and the real “Freedom 251” will be a new product with all promised features, Adcom didn’t buy this.
“We are deeply grieved by this incident where our mobile phone has been presented to masses for Rs 251, and therefore, would not hesitate from taking any legal actions against the company, in case the entire fiasco impacts Adcom’s brand name or subsequently we face any other kind of losses,” Adcom’s founder and chairman Sanjeev Bhatia had said.
“Yes, it is true that although we sold the handsets to Ringing Bells earlier, like we sell Adcom mobiles to lakhs of users, we were absolutely unaware of the reselling plans of the company in question,” he added.
“Furthermore, we still haven’t been able to evaluate their pricing policy as we sold the handsets at Rs 3,600 per unit (to Ringing Bells),” Bhatia said.
Freedom 251: Ringing Bells starts refunding money
Towards the end of February, Ringing Bells started refunding money to customers due to negative speculation around its claim.
“There was a lot of negativity around us so we have decided to take money from customers only after delivering phones to them. We are refunding money to those who have paid for booking the phones and giving them an option of cash on delivery,” Ringing Bells Director Mohit Goel had said.
The company claimed 30,000 people paid for booking the phones, and over 7 crore people registered for it. The payment was facilitated by CCAvenue and PayU Biz.
“We don’t want customers’ money initially. We have investors to back our project. There is a business model to justify the price. We have a foolproof plan and to whomsoever we have disclosed it has agreed to it. I don’t want to disclose full details as of now,” Goel had said, justifying the payback.
Interestingly, he had also claimed deliveries would start in April at the point.
Freedom 251 has nothing to do with Make in India: DIPP Secy
One of the reasons given by Ringing Bells for the low-cost of Freedom 251 was that it will rely on ‘Make-in-India’ to keep the cost of the phone low. However DIPP Secretary Amitabh Kant said the phone had nothing to do with Make in India.
“This is not a Govt project. Make in India team has nothing 2 (to) do with this,” tweeted Kant, who was the then outgoing secretary of DIPP, the nodal agency for the ‘Make in India’ campaign.
In an earlier tweet on February 19, Kant had said: “It’s not d (the) price of handset; its broadband connectivity & operational cost: Freedom 251: priced at Rs 251.” On this tweet, some Twitter users had raised objections as why a government representative of ‘Make In India’ was clarifying on behalf of a private company.
Call centre sues Ringing Bells
Cyfuture, a provider of data center and business process outsourcing (BPO) services announced plans to file a case of cheating and fraud against the company.
Cyfuture claims it was contracted by Ringing Bells to provide call-center support for its smartphone brand in India, and the company did not fulfill payments due to them. Read more here.
PayBiz holds payments
PayUBiz also issued a statement on the Ringing Bells Freedom 251 controversy, and refused to release payments till proof of deliveries was given.
In a statement issued by a company spokesperson, PayUBiz had said, “With a surge in number of queries received for Freedom 251 during last few days, we are cautious towards the payments being made by buyers to buy Freedom 251. As a responsible payment solution company, we have ensured that the buyer’s money remains safe with us and gets released to the merchant once the product is dispatched. In case the merchant is not able to fulfil the huge demand they have received, we will work with merchant to return the money to buyers.”
A PTI report said, the I-T Department is looking into the financial structure of the Noida-based company and has obtained documents, including those from the Registrar of Companies (RoC), in this regard.
Telecom Minister asks Deity to probe issue
In February, after hype over Freedom 251 grew, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked Department of Electronics and IT Secretary (Deity) Aruna Sharma to look into the scheme of Ringing Bells offering a smartphone for just Rs 251. Read more here.
DoT also said the pricing of the phone was not possible, as a smartphone with such specs would at least cost Rs 2,300 to build.
When translated into retail price after addition of applicable duties, taxes and distribution and retail margins, the cost of the product would be at least Rs 4,100, the industry body had said.
ICA had requested the Minister to get into the depth of the issue, saying the price could not be below Rs 3,500 even after a subsidised sale.
Ringing Bells launched on February 16
Ringing Bells launched India’s most affordable smartphone called Freedom 251 for a price of Rs 251 on February 16.
The smartphone with a 4-inch WVGA resolution display, features a 1.3 Ghz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB total storage space and a 3.2 megapixel camera on the back. It will have 0.3 megapixel camera on the front and has a 1450 mAh battery. This is dual-SIM 3G capable phone.
In a price-conscious market, this was definitely a big launch; a smartphone at Rs 251 would probably find a lot of buyers. However, the problem was that no one had heard of Ringing Bells before and the actual phone was still out of sight.
Whether the Ringing Bells lives up to its tall claims will be only be made clear on June 30.
With agency inputs
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