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Today in Tech: OnMobile – 3 Red Flags; Chrome & Drive on iPad; Price discrimination online

Onmobile: three red flags
Economic Times reports on a probe in OnMobile, a company with excellent pedigree. It was incubated at Infosys. One of its founders, Arvind Rao, studied at IIT Bombay and Wharton, worked at McKinsey and was in charge of technology investments at Gilbert Global Equity Partners before he started the firm. The other founder Mouli Raman, was the head of internet products group at Infosys.

After some teething trouble – OnMobile had come close to shutting down in the initial years – the company picked itself up, found customers, grew its revenues and got listed in 2008. At that time, its share price was about Rs 270. Yesterday, it closed at Rs 33 – about 17% drop from the previous day, and 87% since its listing. The company has denied the allegations. But even publicly available information – all sourced from their filings to stock markets – raises at least three red flags.

Operations Committee: Earlier this month, OnMobile informed (pdf)  BSE that an Operations Committee of the Board comprising of Mr. H. H. Haight, Chairman, and Mr. Naresh Malhotra, Chairman of the Audit Committee, will oversee the affairs of the Company. Interestingly, the committee doesn’t have anyone from operations. Chairman of the board and chairman of audit committee are independent positions – and they don’t report to CEO. How often have we seen this happen?

 

Top management attrition: Rajesh Kunnath, the present CFO, is the third to occupy that position in the last seven months. The earlier CFO, Amit Rastogi, joined in January, after Rajesh Moorti, the previous CFO left in December. ET reports its head of M&A is out too. The company has said it’s all for personal reasons. Definite red flag.

 

Transparency: OnMobile has informed BSE about the pledging of shares by Arvind Rao – here – and others – here and here. These need not be red flags in the normal course of events, but given the management changes,  the turnover of CFOs, and the fact that share prices have dropped over 40% in the last six months – these raise concern. More transparency – regarding related party transactions with companies such as RiffMobile, Oskar Habitat and Mobile Traffik – would have helped.

I wrote to Mr Kunnath late yesterday seeking clarifications on some of these issues, and he has promised to respond by end of today. Will keep you updated.

 

Google launches Chrome and Drive for iOS
I tried both on iPad, and here’s a quick review. I expected Chrome to be too slow on iPad, given Apple’s restrictions on third party apps. Those who have used Chrome on Adroid might disagree, but I found it pretty fast. Even if it had been a little slower, I would have still gone for it for its features – syncing bookmarks, syncing open tabs and ease of use. I use Dropbox, and I like it a lot. But Drive has bigger storage space – 5GB. Right now, my only problem with Drive app is that it doesn’t open documents/spreadsheet using Pages and Numbers, developed by Apple for tablet. Otherwise, it seems to be a great tool. There are here: Chrome, Drive

 

Price discrimination on the internet:
During the first dotcom boom days, we were told that internet will help customers discover the best price, and that free flow of information will bring the prices and extra normal profits down. The latest Economist writes about software that lets internet companies charge different prices depending on how deep their pockets are. Those who have read their Adam Smiths won’t be surprised: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

 

Also of interest

  • NZ court finds Megaupload search warrants illegal: Reuters
  • RIM Cutting 5,000 Jobs; BlackBerry 10 Delayed Until 2013: AllThingsD
  • RIP ‘Software’ Companies; Hello ‘Data’ Companies: Forbes

 

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NS Ramnath
I have been with Forbes India since August 2008. I like writing about ideas, events and people at the intersection of business, society and technology. Prior, I was with Economic Times. I am based in Bangalore. Email: ns.ramnath@gmail.com
 
 
 
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