Freedom 251 :marketing and advertising master stroke or just another scam

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Sumeet Kumar Sharma, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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A huge buzz was created in social media with the launch of world’s cheapest phone -Freedom 251 – at an astonishing price of Rs.251 only. It is almost like a dream to imagine something as cheap as that, but nonetheless it is true as of now.

Freedom 251, a smartphone with smart marketing strategy showcasing the tricolour on website making a deliberate attempt to link it with Make in India, Skill India campaigns has been successful in its attempt to gain widespread acceptance and liking from Indians and at the same time support from the government.

The mobile handset booking having gone viral from the day online booking opened, Ringing Bells (a Noida based start-up)- the mobile manufacturer- has achieved a remarkable feat, which is even heavy promotional ad campaigns are unable to achieve. It ended up pumping traffic at the rate of 600,000 hits per second, for comparison, search engine giant Google processes an estimated 40,000 search requests per second. It claims to have received nearly five crore registrations in just two days

With Cellular Associations of India (COAI) clearly stating the non viability of selling a 3G phone at a price below Rs 2,700, people are suspecting that this could eventually turn out to be a bogus thing or a scam. The security of money of buyers who have booked the handset is under doubt now, as in reality it is not possible to make smartphones at such a low cost because even a memory card, a chip set or a processor costs more than the whole handset.

Everything around the Freedom 251 launch appears speculative and puts one in dubious mind. On one hand it is said to have come under the scanner of excise and income tax departments with I-T Department looking into the financial structure of the but on the other hand the Ringing Bells president Ashok Chaddha says that it was a visit from excise department and I-T Department, since they are planning to achieve milestones under Make in India, Skill India and Start-up India. Another unconvincing clarification by Mr. Chaddha is the justification he gave regarding the showcasing of sample or prototype – showing Adcom’s mobile handsets-  of what the handsets will look like.

However, the truth will come to light only after Ringing Bells will start delivering this smartphone to the users by June 30. Only time will tell whether it is marketing and advertising master-stroke as it most likely saved itself millions in advertising money or just another scam waiting to be revealed soon. But nonetheless it definitely gives a glimpse of how start-ups like Ringing Bells could smartly and innovatively manoeuvre through the cut-throat competition in market and create room for themselves in a crowded smartphone.

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