At an event presided by BJP MP Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi in New Delhi on Wednesday evening, India’s Rs. 251 smartphone the Ringing Bell Freedom 251 was officially launched. The themes of Digital India, Skill India, and Make in India were given a lot of importance at the launch event, as the potential use cases of the phone to empower citizens in rural and semi-urban areas were highlighted.
The company did not share too many details, but stated the although the chipset will be imported from Taiwan at present, the rest of Freedom 251 would be made in India; the goal is to make up to 75 percent of the hardware in India by the end of one year, and to raise this to 100 percent over time, said Ringing Bells President Ashok Chadha.
He also confirmed that there is no government subsidy for the phone, and nor is there any involvement from the government, beyond a long time friendship with MP Murli Manohar Joshi, who provided “vision and guidance” for the Freedom 251 project.
The eventual goal, according to the company, is to sell over 1 crore units per month. At the launch, Chadha also confirmed that if the number of orders crosses 2.5 lakhs, the company will have to stop taking further orders.
The Ringing Bells Freedom 251 runs on Android 5.1, with a 4-inch display, a quad-core 1.3GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage (expandable to 32GB). The phone, which can be booked online until Saturday, is priced at an amazingly low Rs. 251, but you may have to wait a few months to actually get the phone, as units may be delivered as late as June 30.
As per Mr. Chadha, “The bill of materials [cost of the parts] for a phone like this is around Rs. 2,000 – by making in India we take away around Rs. 400 from that; by selling online we cut overheads and save another Rs. 400,” explained Chadha. “And as the numbers go up, we’re not talking lakhs but much more, we save another Rs. 400 from economies of scale. And then, our platform becomes big, and attractive to others, so we can then highlight products that are worth buying for our customers, and this is another source of income. We will pass all of this on to the customers, we want to make only a small profit per unit.”
Speaking at the launch, MP Murli Manohar Joshi praised the phone, and talked about the importance, not just of increased digital penetration in India, but also of making products in India. “Unless India innovates and makes something new, it cannot progress,” he said.