Noida: The makers of Freedom 251 smartphone, touted to be the cheapest of its kind, closed both online and offline bookings for it on Saturday, a day before originally scheduled.
“Till 11 am on Saturday, a total of 7.35 crore people have booked the `251 smartphone. We had to shut down online bookings because we are prepared to deliver only these many handsets,” said Mohit Kumar Goel, founder of Ringing Bells.
The Noida-based company said they appointed 100 distributors in north Indian cities to each take 5,000 offline bookings.
“We are yet to figure out how many they booked… We will soon resume our offline bookings…A person could only book one smartphone offline or online,” said Ashok Chadha, president of the company.
Some buyers alleged the distributors issued vouchers in Noida and even accepted cash for vouchers in bulk.
“We will look into why distributors accepted money,” said Chadha.
The company said it will begin delivering the handsets from April and expected to finish the process by 2016 end.
Goel said 30,000 people paid the amount, including shipping charges. The rest of them will pay once the phone is delivered, he said.
The company said it received 3.7 crore bookings on Thursday when the phone was launched, and 2.8 crore on the second day. On Saturday, it got another 85 lakh bookings, after which orders were suspended.
Many smartphone buyers gathered outside the company’s office on Saturday after they could not place an order online. “Why did the website not run smoothly since the bookings opened? I have not been able to book a phone so far,” said prospective buyer Vipin Chauhan.
The company’s website was plagued with problems since the bookings opened. It also came under criticism from various quarters for the low pricing, with the Indian Cellular Association urging the telecom ministry to look into it.
But Goel maintained that he will not import China-made phones to deliver on his promises. He claimed to set up 20 manufacturing units across the country and create 4.5 lakh jobs. In a month and a half, Goel said, he will set up the first plant.
“For the first time we will manufacture phone memory in India, which is presently imported from Taiwan.”
He said the phone’s cost was `1,719. “But I am not working for profit. I want to contribute to ‘Digital India’ by giving a smartphone to everyone who has `251 in his pocket, be it a labourer or a farmer.”
He said a team of 50 people worked on the project for eight months before the launch.