I woke up in the morning at the unearthly time of 6.00 AM only to make sure that I am able to book at least two units of the much publicized Freedom 251 smartphone – one for myself and one for my father. I filled in the requisite details on the website and hit the ‘Pay Now’ button. And then…the page refreshed bringing me back to square one. That was the first hiccup.
But no problem. Given the dirt cheap price of the phone and the advertisement blitzkrieg, it is evident that lakhs of people in India would have been making an attempt at buying the phone at the same time leading to some technical issues.
What is concerning, however, is how and from where did this phone appear on the market so surreptitiously, and how will the company, ‘Ringing Bells’, fulfill the demand if people are able to place orders?
There are other questions, too.
Why is the phone not listed in the ‘Products’ section of Ringing Bells website?
When you land on the main website, you get to see only four products of the company. Nowhere is any mention of Freedom 251.
Any product that has been marketed on such a massive level should find mention on the main website of the company itself. This is general business practice, which lends to more authenticity.
The pricing is inexplicable
There is no nothing in the world that can justify the Rs.251 price tag of the phone. Experts say that a phone with similar features will cost more than Rs.1,000 even if one uses the cheapest stuff. The best of economists cannot explain how something can be sold at price four times less than its cost unless there is subsidy from government.
Indian Cellular Association says minimum price for 3G phone is 2700rs not possible to offer phone at Rs 251. Company claims not sustainable.
— aseem manchanda (@aseemmanchanda) February 17, 2016
Is there any government connection?
A report published by the NDTV says that the Freedom 251 has been made with “immense support of the government”. But there is no official confirmation of the same from any government official. Also, what constitutes “immense support” is unclear.
So it is highly likely that the government has no hand in this. One must note that merely using the ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’ logo for a product promotion does not mean the government is part of it.
Yes, it was Murli Manohar Joshi who was spotted at the inauguration of the phone. But he is a BJP MP from Kanpur but holds no cabinet post, which means he is not part of the government.
What is Ringing Bells?
The company is just 5 months and 2 days old, having been incorporated on September 16, 2015. It has three directors, including founder Rohit Kumar. The other two are Sushma Devi and Rajesh Kumar.
No one knows much about the directors. The website of Ringing Bells says that the registered office is located in Noida.
The company has invited distributors to help promote the products of the brand. What is noteworthy is that it does not clearly mentions the exact name of the brand.
While the name of the company has been written as Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd on all the pages of the website, the brand name is either RING BELL or BELL on different pages, which is clearly confusing.
Better illustrate this with an example. Bharti Airtel Limited is a company whose brand ‘Airtel’ is India’s famous telecom carrier. You do not see them using any other name for ‘Airtel’ brand.
What about the phone?
The features are too ordinary for the day and age, but you know that already. What is important here is that the phone appears to have lifted icon designs and look from the Apple’s iPhone. Such an action would invite a lawsuit from the American giant. (Remember Apple vs Samsung?).
Also, Chinese handset maker Xiaomi too faced a patent problem from Apple. Copyright infringement is not handled lightly by anyone in the world.
So, is this a fraud?
It is too early to say anything on that yet. Yes, the look and functioning of the site does not match the level of hype generated over the phone.
The poor English grammar in which the company is responding to queries on its Facebook page hints that a tyro is handling it.
Then there is this Adcom connect. Based out of New Delhi, Adcom is an importer of IT products. The company, according to Hindustan Times, is clueless that its product was sent to the HT office as ‘Freedom 251’ phone.
Ringing Bell’s spokespeople refused to answer HT’s queries about Freedom 251 because they “hadn’t seen the phone” https://t.co/J1hgU9gGcZ
— ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@PranavDixit) February 17, 2016
Redditors have pointed out that if this turns out to be a fraud, the company is set to make 12.5 billion rupees if they are able to sell 5 crore units of the phone.
As far as delivery is concerned, you pay first and then wait for four months. Again, many see this with suspicion.
That the company presented two different phones in their advertisements of Freedom 251 strengthens suspicions, and the Internet has found something new to make fun of.
Perhaps the only good thing this phone has done is make thousands wake up at 6.00 AM.