‘Freedom 251’ mobile priced at a sensational Rs 251 by Ringing Bells company first elicited amazement from all and sundry and then caused consternation to break out as the website freedom251.com crashed after tens of thousands of people tried to log onto the website to book the cheapest smartphone in the world, but to no avail. The result was that a lot of people were disappointed as the site crashed and stayed inoperative for 2 days running – those who actually found their way to the company’s door were turned away too.
While the world kept asking questions and Indians remained puzzled about the nature of the promised deal, the Noida-based startup, Ringing Bells, which had promised a Rs 251 (less than $4) ‘Make in India’ smartphone, delivery charges extra, on Friday claimed to have received nearly 5 crore registrations in just 2 days of opening up for online pre-orders.
In a phone chat, Ringing Bells president Ashok Chadha said that since the company will hand over 25 lakh ‘Freedom 251’ mobiles to the people who have registered for it online, the firm is now considering whether to stop the registration process as there are two more days left to pre-order the phone till 8 p.m. on February 21.
Earlier on Thursday, Ringing Bells claimed to have received 30,000 confirmed orders for the Freedom 251 mobile phone and over six lakh hits per second clicks on its website on the first day. But hours later, the firm stopped taking orders after its servers crashed owing to a huge rush to book the device online.
“The pre-booking numbers we received (for Freedom 251 mobile) are sheer humongous. I am happy that so many Indians have responded to our ‘Make in India’ smartphone call. Now the onus is on us to deliver on the promise and I am hopeful that we will be able to start delivery latest by April 10 and finish well before the June 30 deadline,” Chadha said. The Freedom 251 mobile will be handed over on a first-come-first-serve basis, he announced.
According to Chadha, the company is looking to set up two more units – one each in Noida and Uttarakhand. But how fast the company is going to start the manufacturing and churn out devices like the Freedom 251 mobile is a big question.
And for the first time, Chadha gave an inkling into the pricing thought by Ringing Bells behind the Freedom 251 mobile. He said that while the manufacturing cost of the mobile phone is high, it will be recovered through a series of measures like economies of scale, innovative marketing, reduction in duties and creating an ecommerce marketplace.
“We are only looking at slim margins here. The aim is to first empower people especially from rural parts of the country to connect with the mainstream with this cheap yet powerful smartphone,” he added.
Reacting to the controversy that all the icons of the built-in app were almost a replica of Apple’s iOS’, he said the mobiles that were shown just as samples during the launch on Wednesday were ‘of some other brand’ and the company will provide people ‘Freedom 251’ with all promised features.
According to reports, government is keeping a close watch on Ringing Bells 4-day booking offer that started from 6 a.m. on Thursday. And that may make the road ahead for the ‘Freedom 251’ tough. Also the Indian Cellular Association has written to the telecom ministry, urging the government to get to the bottom of the issue as selling a smartphone this cheap is not possible.