Ringing Bells, the makers of Freedom 251 - the Rs 251 priced smartphone, finally cleared some air about the company’s investments and business model.
Amid what only be called a media trial, Mohit Goel, the managing director of Ringing Bells said that the company was taking in investments from distributors and manufacturers to keep the company afloat.
“We have not taken a penny from people which is illegal. Our distributors and our assembly partner have invested Rs 80 crore in the company,” Goel said adding that distributors had invested Rs 40 crore and the assembly partner the rest along with Goel’s own assets which are mortgaged with Oriental Bank of Commerce.
Explaining further, Goel raised his voice over the conundrum to say that investors were finding Ringing Bells products very popular and hence they were putting money in the company. He added that his biggest distributor has pumped in Rs 10 crore and distributor strength has improved from 120 to 280 in four months.
He also offered another justification in terms of pricing of the phone. Goel said he was trying to make money from bundling apps inside the phone. Earlier he had said that he was making a loss of at least Rs 960 per unit but planned to bridge the gap by taking money from app developers who would pay based on the fact that the phone was really popular.
It is the same logic that Goel uses to justify his claim for the government to invest Rs 50,000 crore into the Freedom 251 project. He also claimed that 95 percent of the profit he makes will go to charity although he did not explain how.
The company has been going back and forth with the delivery dates of Freedom 251 and has faced several criticisms including an FIR and a court case. However, the company believes that the dream of giving everyone a Rs 251 smartphone is huge and hence have sought help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.
“We believe we can give these smartphones to 75 crore Indians and hence we have asked for 10 minutes from the Prime Minister to explain to him how Freedom 251 can be a game changer. Even if we don’t get help from the government, we will continue to sell phones,” Goel said launching four feature phones, power banks and three smartphones.
The four new feature phones are Ringing Bells Hit (Rs. 699), Ringing Bells King (Rs. 899), Ringing Bells Boss (Rs. 999), and Ringing Bells Raja (Rs. 1,099) and the three power banks are - RB Power (4000mAh, Rs. 399), RB Power Plus (5500mAh, Rs. 499), RB Smart (8000mAh, Rs. 699).
The company also launched a 31.5-inch HD LED TV at Rs 9,990. The delivery date of the TV was also under speculation till Goel clarified that the sets would be shipped on 15th August.
Asked about Make-in-India, Goel said that all devices were being made in Haridwar and the company was looking at coming up with its own facilities in Noida and Uttarakhand but that could be very far away considering the business model of the company.
Ringing Bells had earlier said that it would start shipping its Freedom 251 devices from July 8 but Mohit clarified that only 5,000 units will be sold in the first lot and said that the second lot would start at the end of July.
The company had in mid-February this year planned to deliver 25 lakh handsets before June 30. However, it received over seven crore registrations before its payment gateway crashed within three days.“We learned from our mistakes and decided to go silent till we come out with the product. Now we have a 4-inch, dual-SIM phone ready for delivery. I feel vindicated,” he had said.
According to Goel, he is facing a loss of Rs 140-Rs 150 per handset even after the app bundling policy, for which parts were imported from Taiwan, but hopes to make profit on volumes. The 3G device has a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal memory and supports external memory cards of up to 32GB.
The company has offered an 8MP primary camera with flash, a 3.2MP front camera for selfie and a 1,800 mAh battery. It runs on Android 5.1 (Lollipop).
The phone is available in two colours -- black and white -- with centrally aligned rear camera and branding on the back panel. It has a speaker just alongside the branding. The device displays the Indian Tricolour when you switch it on. The company has incorporated all the basic Google apps in the handset along with hike messenger.