As consumers wait to see the cheapest smartphone (less than $4) at its scheduled launch in the capital on Thursday
, its Noida-based makers have made another pitch for the government's support to make their loss-making venture "work for millions" who don't own such a phone.
According to Ringing Bells Pvt Ltd CEO Mohit Goel, he initially faced Rs. 930 loss on each handset that cost him Rs. 1,180 and for which parts were imported from Taiwan.
"I recovered Rs. 700-800 from app developers and revenue generated through advertisements on Freedom 251 website. After selling the device for Rs. 251 (cash on delivery), the total loss per handset is expected to be in the range of Rs. 180-270," Goel told IANS.
The first batch of 5,000 'Freedom 251' devices will finally be out for delivery from July 8 and the receiver will have to pay Rs. 291 (including Rs. 40 as delivery charge) to get the unit, says Goel.
"In order to digitally-empower every Indian, if I can get government support under the Digital India programme, I can ensure timely delivery of 'Freedom 251' phone to all citizens at the same price," Goel said on the eve of the launch event.
In a letter written to the Prime Minister's Office dated June 28 asking for a meeting with Narendra Modi, Ringing Bells said: "We have brought 'Freedom 251' which we offer on 'Cash on Delivery' terms but we have a gap between the BOM (Bill of Materials) and the Selling Price. We, therefore, humble request government support to actualise the objective to cascade the availability and usage of smartphones all through the far reaches of our great nation".
Goel's ambition is huge. He says if the government is willing to dole out Rs. 50,000 crores, he can ensure that 750 million of India's population would become part of digital India by owning a smartphone at Rs. 251.
Bringing some modesty into the equation about the enormity of his demand, Goel says that the government need not give his company the money but can get it manufactured by another vendor.
"The government can make the phone - under our Freedom brand - from some other vendor. I have no objection to it. To make such phone for every Indian citizen, the government needs to allocate funds from its Digital India initiative," he said.
Having learnt his lessens from the controversial February launch when Ringing Bells invited senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, this time, Goel wants to play safe and is not inviting any politician for the launch.
"I want to keep this event controversy-free. I have proved that a smartphone is actually possible in this kind of investment. But to fulfill a mammoth handset order that runs in crores, we badly need government's support," he added.
(Also see: Freedom 251 in Pictures)
To generate more revenue, he plans to go to iCloud (cloud storage and cloud computing service from Apple) and begin a software called "WhiteCloud".
"The aim is to make and provide at least 100 new apps online to 'Freedom 251' owners and charge them bare minimum - to the tune of Re. 1 to Rs. 3 per app - to generate revenue," he said.
After delivering 5,000 phones in the first batch, Goel says he will wait for customers' feedback. "I am ready with 500 service centres pan-India to address people's queries," he claimed.
The company will also showcase a 32-inch high-definition LED television - also called "Freedom" - at the launch event.
"These will be the cheapest television sets in India and will be available for less than Rs 10,000. Online registration for the TV sets will be open from July 25 with delivery to be made from August 1," Goel said, claiming that the company currently has one lakh such pieces in stock.
In comparison, the price of a 32-inch HD LED TV sets normally begins from Rs. 13,000 in online markets.
In an earlier interview to IANS, Goel had also claimed that they are ready with nearly two lakh 'Freedom 251' handsets.
The company had in mid-February this year planned to deliver 25 lakh handsets before June 30. However, it received over seven crore registrations before its payment gateway crashed within three days.
The 3G device has a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal memory and supports external memory cards of up to 32GB.
The company has offered an 8MP primary camera with flash, a 3.2MP front camera and a 1,800 mAh battery. It runs on Android 5.1 (Lollipop).
The phone would be available in two colours - black and white.
The device displays the Indian Tricolour when you switch it on. It will incorporate all the basic Google apps in the handset, according to Goel.