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Why Freedom 251 was the mother of all scams of 2016?
Freedom 251, the world's cheapest smartphone which was available at a dirt cheap price of Rs 251, grabbed headlines for barely two weeks in the month of February this year. However, not much was later heard about the phone Freedom 251 or its manufacturer, Noida-based Ringing Bells.

Although a majority of people who tried ordering the phone online, couldn't and had to give it up in futility after the company's site crashed due to heavy traffic. But even those who did manage to place successful orders for the phone, haven't apparently received their handsets.

To be honest, Freedom 251, a phone with 1 GB RAM, 4-inch screen and a 3.2 MP camera always looked like a too-good-to-be-true offer and more of a scam. The entire deal that looked fraudulent in the first place has now turned out as the mother of all scams of 2016. It has now been reported that Mohit Goel, the managing director of Ringing Bells has quit, and so has his wife Dharna Goel from the directorship of the company.

The company's office has remained shut for almost two weeks now and the dealers don't know what reply to give to those who had deposited Rs 251 with them for acquiring the phones. Prem Prakash, a Noida-based dealer of Freedom 251 told Times of India, "I have shut my shop as I didn't know how to answer the people who gave us money."

Another dealer based in Ghaziabad said that Goel owed him Rs 16 lakh. He says, "Initially he owed me Rs 25 lakh of which he returned some part claiming that he would pay the remaining amount in some time. However, now we hear that the company has been dissolved and a new company named MDM has been formed by the founders of Ringing Bells."

A Delhi court had recently summoned the owners of the company in connection with a cheque bounce case filed by a private firm Aryan Infratech Pvt Ltd. A cheque worth Rs 2 crore issued by Ringing Bells to the firm had bounced due to `insufficient funds'.

After reports of Mohit Goel starting a new smartphone venture called MDM emerged, Ringing Bells issued a statement, stating that they were "very much in the market and operating as earlier".

According to their official statement, the company has delivered 70,00 handsets in states like Himachal, Bihar, New Delhi, Punjab, J&K, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. What is notable is that as per promise, the company was supposed to deliver 25 lakh handsets before 30th June. Ringing Bells had received orders for 7 crore phones in three days which had led to the payment gateway's crashing.

There were also a few other issues with Freedom 251 which led to damaging its brand reputation. The phone itself was allegedly a product manufactured by Adcom, a company known for Chinese rebranded phones. There were allegations by a few buyers that whitener had been used on the handsets to wipe out Adcom's name. So, it was basically a Chinese phone being marketed under the garb of Modi's "Make in India", another scam.

Freedom 251, as expected, utterly lacked creative inspiration. The phone borrowed heavily from the iPhone in terms of design, with the makers lifting icons (including the web browser, calculator, camera and email) straight from Apple's iOS. What will happen if tomorrow Apple decides to sue Ringing Bells?

Besides, Ashok Chadha, the president of Ringing Bells, while explaining his so-called business model had given out a weird concept of "economies of scale". Despite a manufacturing cost of Rs 2,500 and no government subsidy, it is next to impossible to sell a smartphone for Rs 251, and that's the naked reality of one of the biggest scams of 2016, the Freedom 251.

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