Freedom 251: FIR certain, defamation case likely against Ringing Bells

New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) Set to file an FIR against Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. – the makers of the controversial Rs.251 (less than $4) smartphone – Cyfuture, a Noida-based data centre and BPO, on Friday met a senior police official and is now deliberating on filing a defamation suit too.

According to Anuj Bairathi, Cyfuture founder and CEO, they met Vishwajeet Srivastava, Gautam Budh Nagar Superintendent of Police (crime branch), who looked into the matter and assured them a suitable course of action.

“After deciding to file an FIR for fraud and non-payment of dues, we are now thinking to file a defamation suit against Ringing Bells as their allegation of non-performance has tarnished our image,” Bairathi told IANS.

“Just a week before ‘Freedom 251’ launch this month, we were told that the company is going to do a ‘dhamaka’ and need 100 people to handle customer calls. But that they are going to launch a dirt cheap smartphone which will attract an unprecedented response was not conveyed to us at all as this exercise would have had needed at least 2,000 people,” he added.

Bairathi, whose BPO has 10 offices across the country with 1,500 employees, agreed to sign the contract after several rounds of discussion and meetings but is now repenting his decision.

“I have 100 kids here who were specifically hired to take customer calls for Ringing Bells. We were assured weekly payment within the contract stating a minimum lock-in period of one year and no termination before a year. What am I going to tell those 100 employees?” he said, talking to IANS.

Ringing Bells, however, refuted these charges.

“We completely disagree with the facts shared by Cyfuture BPO. Ringing bells were receiving thousands of complaints directly from the consumers that lot of people were not able to get through the helpline number. We had outsourced this job to Cyfuture BPO,” said Ringing Bells president Ashok Chaddha.

“Telecom companies confirmed that the helpline was receiving a volume of approx 12 lakh calls per hour. It came to our knowledge that the BPO company were not able to handle the traffic. We are looking into the situation to serve our customers better,” he added in a statement.

Bairathi, however, said that they have been in the BPO business for more than a decade and are able to handle any customer calls requirement.

“Our satisfied client list includes Fortune 500 companies like Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), among others. We have the expertise and knowledge to successfully manage any BPO project,” he pointed out.

According to him, from the very first day of the launch of the call centre operations, they have been requesting Ringing Bells to increase the number of seats considering the massive call flow that the call centre started receiving from the public.

“We explained to them that not increasing the number of seats would lead to severe call drops but they were not willing to increase the number of seats as it involved additional costs,” Bairathi said in a statement.

According to him, Ringing Bells was to provide a 30-day notice-period and make all pending payments.

Taking the world by surprise, Ringing Bells launched “Freedom 251” smartphone that, it said, has been developed “with immense support” from the government.

As the makers of the smartphone went gaga over being part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” and “Digital India” initiatives in last few days, a top government official clarified on Thursday that the government has nothing to do with “Freedom 251” smartphone.

“This is not a government project. ‘Make in India’ team has nothing to do with this,” wrote Amitabh Kant, secretary of department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP), in a Twitter post.

The tweet comes on the heel of the fact that the government is already keeping a close watch on “Freedom 251” and its maker.

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