Have you heard of DataWind? Of course you have, because it was the company behind the world’s cheapest Android tablet a few years ago. The Indian government got behind the initiative and well, the world’s cheapest tablet was nothing but vaporware. The tablet never made it to mass production and was mired in all sorts of controversies. But it did give winds to Datawind, the manufacturer of the Aakash tablet. According to a recent report by research firm IDC, DataWind is one of the top tablet vendors in India. I see something similar could be happening with Ringing Bells, the company behind world s cheapest smartphone, the Freedom 251. Also Read - Ringing Bells Freedom LED TV launched for Rs 9,900; also launches 4 feature phones, 2 smartphonesAlso Read - Ringing Bells CEO seeks Rs 50,000 crore investment from government for Freedom 251 smartphone
Ringing Bells shot to fame and caught everyone’s fancy by announcing the world’s cheapest smartphone for Rs 251. Even though the company didn’t have any product — the first sample was an Adcom smartphone with its logo covered with a whitener and a sticker of India’s flag on the rear, both of which came off within hours. The company advertised its launch even with full page ads in national newspapers, lied about being a part of the government’s Make In India project (despite not having any manufacturing facility or any viable roadmap) and started taking pre-orders. Also Read - Ringing Bells Freedom 251 delivery date extended to July 7
Without having a product, and despite being an unknown company whose registered office premises were found to be abandoned, the company managed to get 70 million registrations. Ringing Bells then found itself under a number of investigations and lawsuits but everyone came to know about the brand, nevertheless.
The promoters of the company kept insisting they would fulfill their promise of delivering the world’s cheapest smartphone but their deliverables have been as fluid as the specifications and looks of the Freedom 251 smartphone. The initial deadline of June 30 passed without the company shipping even a single unit. Then the company changed the phone itself and confirmed it would ship 200,000 units in the first batch. Today that number became 5,000. Somewhere in between, Ringing Bells even urged the government to spare Rs 50,000 crore to fulfill its dreams!
Ringing Bells now says it is incurring a loss of Rs 930 on each Freedom 251 unit, though in the beginning the founders claimed to have a robust business plan whereby they would be able to make money even after selling the phone for Rs 251. Now let’s do some calculations. Assuming Ringing Bells indeed has 5,000 units (we have learnt better than taking the company at its face) and sells them at a loss of Rs 930, it turns out to be Rs 46.5 lakhs. Add to it the marketing costs, and other expenses, even then the brand has become a household name, irrespective of whether it ships even a single Freedom 251 unit.
This became clear today when the company announced an LED TV priced under Rs 10,000. Who would have given Ringing Bells so much importance and so much mind space had Freedom 251 not been there? Heck, even the press release had the headline “Makers of the world’s cheapest smartphone”, when the smartphone doesn’t exist and clearly Ringing Bells isn’t manufacturing it. Anyone can import smartphones and sell them at a loss.
At the moment, Ringing Bells only seems to be trying its best to milk all the publicity it can get, and has also used the opportunity to expand its range of products. It is little wonder that the LED TV also has the Freedom moniker. Let s understand this in much simpler way, Ringing Bells – Freedom 251 = Nothing. Would you really care about an unknown brand like Ringing Bells, were it not for the Freedom 251 smartphone?
Ringing Bells new products are nothing to write about and are priced at par with the market price. While you can easily get a feature phone for under Rs 1,000, smartphones these days are also priced as low as Rs 3,000. Ringing Bells smartphones are priced at Rs 3,999 and Rs 4,999. In other words, the only way ahead seems to be cashing in on the Freedom 251 buzz and make real money out of these products. Interestingly, its feature phones (priced between Rs 699 and Rs 1,099) are more expensive than the Freedom 251.