Just to clarify in advance, we are not passing any judgement about the phone and whether it’s scam or not. What we are referring to is that it seems more of a ‘Publicity Stunt’ and nothing else.
Of course it is not possible to manufacture any smartphone at this price point. So for all those aspirants, who have doubts and thinking that will it be a good purchase? We certainly believe that it will be worth, only thing is that whether you will get it eventually or not?
Going by company’s history and media reports on it, this seems very unlikely that everyone who orders Freedom 251 will get the smartphone on or before June 30th. It was a nightmare ordering it on the first day itself, as the website kept crashing. In fact the company stopped taking orders after few hours or so because the website had as many as “6 Lacs hits per second”, due to which firm noted that they are “taking a pause and upgrading the service and will revert within or before 24 hours.” Later in the day, Ringing Bells Director Mohit Goel said that 30,000 orders were booked before we terminated sales for Day 1.
Freedom 251 website notes the message for buyers:
On Day 2, company has started taking orders again but not asking for the payment and now buyers will get an email with payment link after 48 hours. We are not sure what their policy will be, since users are ordering multiple devices from same account.
Ringing Bells, the company behind ‘Freedom 251’ doesn’t really have a history though. The company is merely 4-5 months old and do not have reputation in making smartphones or anything else. It launched a smartphone recently dubbed the Smart 101, which is a cheap 4G Android device for just Rs. 2,999. The device went on order between February 2nd to 10th, and many users on the web are reporting that they never got any confirmation from the company, and moreover there was no response on the given customer care numbers. But this claim we cannot verify independently as of now.
Now let’s talk about the Freedom 251. It’s been reported that the phone is a re-branded subsidized version of Adcom Ikon 4. Even the phone showcased at the launch event had Adcom logo upfront covered with a white sticker. But company says that this is not the final device and it has only taken touch panels from Adcom, so the retail units will be different when they ship. Well is it related to Adcom anywhere now? We don’t think so. Ringing Bells website also notes that it has a “complete in-house product testing set-up in India” , but where? Nobody knows.
We did see quite a few government related officials at the Freedom 251 launch event in Delhi on Wednesday, and the company is advertising that their mission is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for “empowering India to the last person, transforming India’s growth story”. The phone also comes pre-loaded with several apps for Women Safety, Swachh Bharat, Farmers, Fishermen and more, but what sort of role that the Indian Government is playing here is yet to be explored. Apparently there’s an inquiry been set up on the whole project by the Telecom department.
Having said that, we think Freedom 251 is too good to be true at a price of Rs. 251 and if it is really for a mission to “empower citizens” then Ringing Bells should make it available to all buyers without any conditions or should have at least defined a number in advance to clear out mess. What if we are we heading towards another ‘Akash’ tablet tragedy?
Let’s take a hypothetical situation here – if Ringing Bells receives 1 crore (10 million / 1,00,00,000) orders for Freedom 251 then they make Rs. 251 crores, and if they deliver 10% of it which is 10 Lacs (1 million) for lowest BOM value of Rs. 2,500 (excluding taxes) then it comes out to be only Rs. 25 crores. Now the question comes, what if the other 90% buyers do not even get a refund? or only some of them get it? It is very likely that many users will not even bother looking for a refund as it is just Rs. 251 for them? Although Goel claims that they will not get the money from the payment partner until they have proof of shipment. But who’s checking that? Well this is just a concern and we hope it never happens.
Also while some may think that the buzz around Freedom 251 is a bad advertisement for government’s big ‘Make In India’ initiative, we feel that it may still help attract some extra investors. The only question remains at this point is ‘how Ringing Bells will achieve this preposition’? and if they don’t? then who should be made accountable for it?