Ringing Bells, the company behind the manufacture of Freedom 251 was forced to stop bookings after sleuths from Excise and Income Tax department raided their Noida office premises on February 20. It is reported that the officers questioned company officials about how they arrived at the cost of Rs. 251. However, no action has been recommended against the company at this juncture. Moreover, the IT department has not yet disclosed the findings of the raid.
As per the sources inside Ringing Bells, the raid was conducted since the company is not associated or listed with Bureau of Indian Standards and hence they can’t sell smartphones in India. A company staffer who declined to reveal his identity disclosed that the raid has nothing to do with the price or promises made by the company.
In an unprecedented move, Telecom Department headed by Ravi Shankar Prasad investigated Freedom 251 being advertised as Freedom 251 for Rs. 291 (including shipping charges). The sources close to the ministry revealed that the handset should cost at least Rs. 2300 based on the kind of specifications they offer.
Even though Telecom Ministry was bit hesitant to keep a check on the company initially, they were forced to intervene after Indian Cellular Association wrote to the ministry, seeking an investigation into the inability of users to book the device and after verifying the past credentials of the company.
According to Telecom ministry, even if the company import the smartphone from China, the device can’t be sold for less than Rs. 2700. Adding taxes, import duty, retail costs, supply chain costs, the final price of the smartphone should come around Rs. 4000.
When we visited the website to check for the latest news, all that we could see is a message with the information that due to the overwhelming response the bookings for phase 1 has been closed.
The company also stated that although they are unable to serve all people they look forward to coming back in Phase 2, which we expect will start after the fulfilment of all the existing orders. However, with the recent IT raid it remains to be seen whether the company will proceed with the manufacturing process of the smartphone.
While the company claimed that they have received 30000 paid orders, Mohit Kumar Goel who is the founder of the company revealed that the company is in possession of around 8 crore registrations who have not paid money.
Despite the claim of huge registrations, Goel is confident of fulfilling all orders before June 31 but declined to reveal the location of the manufacturing plant.
Earlier, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya had written to various officials including the concerned minister to conduct a detailed enquiry into the claims made by Ringing Bells. He said that people should not be fooled or looted by bogus claims which sound too good to be true.
As of writing this, we have more questions than answers. Specifically, we would like to know from the company as to whether the company has adequate manpower to complete the production of nearly 8 crore smartphones.