The Magical Uncertainties of FREEDOM 251

By | February 18, 2016

I have been trying to book ‘Freedom 251’. It is a 3G phone 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. A 0.3 MP selfie camera and a 1450 mAh battery. And the price a Dinnasouras jaw dropping price INR 251. And I have failed. I read on tweets that the servers have crashed.

I am witness to many complains and irritated customers who have ben hit non-responsive site. It seems RINGING BELLS underestimated demand. Are they stupid or is this a scam. The successful CMO (if there is one) should be sacked to allow another FLIPKART story.

Anyway, WTF is Ringing Bell. It is a 5 months and 2 days (ROC 285276 Delhi) company with just INR 60 Lakh paid capital. Activity covers ‘Manufacturing of television and radio transmitters and apparatus for line telephony and line telegraphy’.

It is in focus for having suddenly made an unbelievable offer. A smartphone at just INR 251 plus Shipping INR 40.

Here comes the googly as Doosara is banned. The company claims ‘Freedom 251 smartphone has been developed ‘with immense support’ from the government. It is  a success story of PM Modi’s flagship ‘Make in India’ scheme’. Now it will be interesting to know what are these supports and how do they influence pricing.

Is the Government subsidising? (Please do note that BJP Stalwart Murli Manohr Joshi was present at the launch function. The chief guest Manohar Parrikar did not come to grace the occasion). Mobile industry body has asked telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to scrutinise the price. According to ICA the said phone canot be below Rs 3,500 even on an subsidised sale.

On the other side, ‘Ringing Bells’ where bells have yet to stop pinging, said they will be able to sell INR 250 phone at INR 251 by adapting measures like economies of scale, innovative marketing, reduction in duties and creating an ecommerce marketplace.

Well someone has a trick up his sleeve which everyone will be dieing to learn. Or millions of   people in India have just been tricked.

Oh, there are 4 other models ( SMART101, MASTER, 4U and KIWI) from Ringing Bells displayed at their site. And if you try ordering anyone of them, a pop up window nastily informs you of the wonderful response and that the phones are outsold. You must wait your turn.

In terms of marketing, it has been well has timed with ‘MAKE IN INDIA’. It is blatantly flouting NATIONAL FLAG ACT AND NORMS in its advertisement and product design. Does naming it ‘FREEDON 251’ gives you license to do so. Then maybe INDIA PAAN WAALA also is eligible for it.

Ad opc- Facebook- Partho Sengupta

Ad opc- Facebook- Partho Sengupta

It is good to note the difference in the two ads published in TOI and HT differs in using of the flag. TOI ad does not carry Ashoka Chakra- thank you for being vigilant. HT does not seem to have learnt form its all colour weekend supplement launch that was delayed (1994 or 95) due to front page carrying an ad with national flag impression.

Media has taken the risk. Normally it is client who is answerable to ASCI and Government. But here is a case they can and should not be allowed to hide behind any excuse.

The full-page advertisements have been splashed across publications. Such acts needs such build-up and the CMO has been right in his strategy. It is just 2 days of media, which has taken the nation by storm. Even JNU seems to have been forgotten. The estimated current investment of INR 6-10 CR can be recovered with booking of 1.6 Lakh units.

Hope the media publishers and the agencies have done their homework.

Ashraf Bhai –my Saabzi waala, Radhey Patel- my Paan waala and Raju my barber, are absolutely confident clear. It is in newspapers it must be right. Print (still) carries credibility. They have each booked 5-6 phones. They have a delivery confirmation for 30th April!

In many ways media should be responsible if it finally turns out to be a fraud scheme. I am sure they have been prudent and have secured their investments. But I wish they have secured their biggest investment TRUST too.

One is not sure, if media has visited their offices, met the promoters, and deep dived in asking questions like they do. Have they seen the factory? Will Arnab let the nation know- what nation today wants to know? WILL I GET MY PHONE?

A question rises. Should we expect Government to always act like Police in Hindi movies. Should it always come in after fraud has been committed. Or the citizens can expect early action. To validate or to expose 251- now that it is so blatently been advertised. No one in the country can say they are unaware of it. It is not like an additional floor is constructed in a highrise.

It is like ‘KAR LO MUTTI MAI’ campaign by Reliance. The INR 500 phone that took the nation in its frenzy. There was a reason for Reliance wanting to mop up numbers. Customer had a protection with brand s Reliance (J). It had the power of Dhirubhi Ambani dream, where customer and stakeholders were never cheated.

Here, do you know the Directors at Ringing Bells, Mohit Kumar, Sushma Devi and Rajesh Kumar. Do you know, Ashok Kumar Chadha, who is the President ad was at the center of the launch function. The alarm bells are really loud this time. And that starts ringing some bells. Bells of Alarm.

Mohit Kumar Goel ( facebook- ‘cutemohit’) is AMITY UNIVERSITY Alumni. He is the brain behind the company. Till very recntly he has been assiting them in their groccery shop in Shamli distict in UP. This has been said by his parents. His wife, Dharna is the CEO of the company.

There is no investment from Mohit or his family and two plants of INR 250 Cr WILL be put in place to maufacture ‘Freedom 250’. The money will be raised from equity and debt- and that is where the game seems to be heading. It seems as if you were selcting school for your kids before your wife gets pregnant. But, then it is an acceptable entreprenuial practice. Now he will have the numbers and money in hand to leverage.

The launch unit of FREEDOM 251 carried ADCOM branding. A similar phone by ADCOM is sold at INR 5000. Ringing Bell countered saying this is a BETA version and final will carry ADCOM branding.

Booking of 40 to 50 Lakh units is not an over estimation. They will mop INR 125 crore plus in this stunt. Not bad at all.

So, why was I booking, for the same reason all of us were booking.

The unbeatable price. The low cost of experimentation. My visit to barber could buy me 6 phones. A pack of Wills Classic Mild is as good as a phone. As a marketer I wanted to go through the experience. I can afford to lose the money. That’s where 251 magic works.

If the phone is delivered- it is good for kids- good paperweight- good 8 GB drive- good gift. Trust me I will be able to find many usage and willingly eat my words and take back what ever been said here.

Should we really be seeing too much into this, when we hear of ‘Data Wind’ planning a smartphone at INR 999 sometime this year.