The fourth episode of season 1 of Money Mafia titled 'In the name of Freedom - The World's Cheapest Smartphone' gives insight into the infamous Freedom 251 smartphone launch.
The episode features the tumultuous launch of the Freedom 251 smartphone in 2015 which is alleged to have conned millions. It contains archival footage, and interviews with journalists, an accountant, a tech executive, and a lawyer.
The first episode of Money Mafia may not have lived up to the expectations. The story of Abdul Karim Telgi, despite being intriguing, was underwhelming in terms of being an informative documentary. There was a definitive step up in quality in terms of quality in the episodes that followed. This episode, In the name of Freedom - The World's Cheapest Smartphone, maintains the standards the series has set from the second episode.
The episode opens by introducing the people behind the project, Ashok Chaddha, the face of the project, and Mohit Goel, the brains of the operation — eerily similar to the stereotypical corporate bosses from the movies. The filmmakers were unable to interview them, but they have added several interviews and press conferences before and after the scheduled launch date. It is also interesting to note that Chaddha slowly faded away from the picture and it was Goel who ended up getting charged and arrested by the authorities.
A couple of ‘tech gurus’ who were interviewed, which included Rajiv Makhni of NDTV, explains why they were skeptical from the start about the feasibility of selling a smartphone at ₹251. The others who were interviewed also shared similar concerns and questioned whether any checks are in place to avoid another ‘Freedom 251’ debacle in the future. There is also a focus on the investigative journalists who set about identifying how manufacturing these devices and selling them at a significantly lower price than the cost price is a viable business. The marketing itself was a con in many ways as explained in the documentary by evoking patriotism amongst the masses by putting the national flag on the back cover, and piggybacking on Digital India and Make in India campaigns launched by the central government without prior permission.
Vishwas Kumar who currently works for TVToday Networkinvestigated the company along with his team of journalists and claims to have found evidence that the company has conned many people.. This is refuted by the company’s lawyer who attempts to justify the company’s stance by claiming that the company may have overestimated its production capacity and made poor decisions leading up to the launch but never intended to scam or con anyone. This level of access is quite impressive, as it gives the audience a greater perspective about the issue.
By the end of the documentary, it leans more to the idea that it is in fact a Ponzi scam and not a failed business model as the lawyer attempts to argue. The filmmakers have not gone into detail into the consumer’s perspective, especially those who had placed pre-orders. There is little to no information provided on that front. Mohit Goel’s arrest for another scam was briefly mentioned on-screen without providing any further context.
Despite the fact that the story of Freedom 251 was well publicised and fresh in everyone’s memories, the documentary manages to provide new information largely, thanks to the great mix of interviews from across the board.