Noida-based startup Ringing Bells, infamous for selling the 'cheapest smartphone in the world' aka Freedom 251 is in news again. Co-founder and MD Mohit Goel, who is said to be the brains behind the Rs 251 smartphone, has quit. His wife, Dharna Goel, who is CEO of Ringing Bells, has also resigned. But Ringing Bells isn't (apparently) shutting shop.
"At Ringing Bells we have our clear business objectives which we have shared earlier with everyone and we are sticking to it. Now Anmol Goel, who is also one of the founder directors, is looking after the affairs of the company and will take forward the company to make it achieve the goals that it has set for itself," a company spokesperson said in a statement.
Anmol Goel, as clear from the statement, is also one of the founder directors of Ringing Bells. Anmol and Mohit are brothers. The company president (consulting) Ashok Chadha, meanwhile, will continue as one, sources have confirmed to India Today Tech.
The company has also cleared the air over ongoing reports that it had transitioned under a new banner, MDM Electronics Private Limited, a company with similar aspirations as Ringing Bells. It has categorically denied these reports saying Ringing Bells "is very well in the market and is operating as earlier. The MDM Electronics Private Limited is a separate entity distinct from Ringing Bells."
That however does not explain why the company's sector 62 office in Noida has been shut for over two weeks now. India Today Tech has reached out to the company seeking more clarity on the issue and will update the piece once we have more information.
As of the Freedom 251 itself, the company claims that it has so far delivered around 70,000 units of the Rs 251 smartphone, and will continue to do so, albeit a little differently. "Delivery of Freedom 251 will be made by retailers who will get the products in turn from the distributors and they in turn from the company as is the standard practice in trade. In addition, as has been underpinned and re-clarified on several occasions, the sales are only on cash on delivery basis. The company is making efforts to deliver more Freedom 251 in recent months," it said.
That should explain why ringingbells.co.in wouldn't open anymore, however, not entirely. This is because the only way to order (and luckily receive) a Freedom 251 was via the official website. Now that the website is down, there is no way for those who registered (for the device) to know their impending status. The company has launched a slew of other devices (feature phones, smartphones, TVs and power banks) in the meanwhile, and at least some of them are available from Amazon India. The future of the Freedom 251, however, remains as bleak as ever. Again, we've reached out to the company for a little more clarity and will update the piece as and when we get a response.
Ringing Bells claims that it has so far delivered around 70,000 units of the Freedom 251 in states such as West Bengal, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, New Delhi, Punjab, J&K, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Apparently, it is "still getting lot of interest in its product," that many have called a Ponzi scheme.
"We have proved that it is possible to arm each and everyone with the reality of digital world. Our target is the low income people who fancy the chances to own a smart phone. We wish to fulfill their dreams soon," the company added.
Ringing Bells, when it launched India's cheapest HD LED TV and six new phones in July 2016, said it wants to make as much as possible in India, and help bring to life Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of a digitally connected India. In fact, Mohit Goel had went on to say that it was only after Modi came into power that Ringing Bells realised the potential of launching a Rs 251 smartphone.
In a letter written to PM Modi dated June 28, Goel had sought the Government's aid to ensure timely delivery of the Freedom 251 phone to all citizens at the same price. He had requested the Government of India to invest a financial sum of Rs 50,000 crore in his project, so 75 crore people of India could buy the Freedom 251.