Archive for September, 2012

Following the resignation of Subash Menon, the speculation is that Surjeet Singh has been lined up to take over as Subex CEO. India’s Financial Express has reported the rumour; see here.

Singh was formerly the CFO of Patni. He left Patni in May 2011, after its acquisition by iGATE.

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Subex, the Indian RA giant, has announced that its founder, Subash Menon, has stepped down from the role of CEO. You can read their press release here. His successor has not yet been named.

Menon was previously forced to step down as Chairman in June. This was the price he paid for Subex’s continuing financial struggles, which all stemmed from the use of FCCBs to finance the disastrous acquisition of Syndesis. This latest move means that the founder, who gave his name to the company, now only retains a role as a non-independent director. In the press release, Menon said:

“With the restructuring of FCCBs complete, I have decided to focus on my other business interests and hence this move.”

The timing of Menon’s resignation is intriguing; Subex customers are about to converge on Vienna for their annual user event. However, those who watch Subex closely might have had a hint this was coming – a June stock exchange filing revealed that Menon and Sudeesh Yezhuvath, COO, had lost their ‘golden goodbye’ entitlements in the event of leaving the company.

Despite the FCCB miscalculation, Menon continues to be admired by many of his rivals. Subex’s woe is not unique amongst Indian businesses; several of them used US Dollar-denominated FCCBs to fuel acquisition sprees, only to get burned by stock market and currency movements. As a leader, Menon’s relentless growth strategy turned a niche software start-up into a global business with annual revenues of USD120M at its peak. In the process, he popularized and spread the concept of the Revenue Operations Centre, and the concept of revenue assurance itself. Whilst Menon was fiercely competitive in business, he was also widely respected for his personable manner. Although his next moves are unknown, we look forward to hearing about Subash Menon’s future business ventures.

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Update: since this post was written, the news about Mara-Ison buying Connectiva has finally been acknowledged publicly. Sort of. There are none of the usual press releases, but the acquisition is mentioned in various places on Mara-Ison’s site; for example, see here. The Mara-Ison website links back to Connectiva’s old website, which still has not been updated.

Well, the rumours were correct, I think. The word on the street is that what little remains of Connectiva is now owned by Mara-Ison. However, I still have to report this as a rumour because Mara-Ison and Connectiva seemingly have no interest in telling the world what they are up to. So you understand that everything I write in this blog is conjecture, not verifiable fact. My conjecture is that the two firms are treating former Connectiva customers appallingly. I would also speculate that many of those former Connectiva customers have refused to sign up to a novated deal with the new legal entity that owns the ‘assets’ of the erstwhile Connectiva. In this context, ‘assets’ is a synonym for worthless code. I dare say that many of those former customers will go to court before they pay another penny to Mara-Izon Connectiva, or whatever the heck the new company is calling itself.

Normally I just like to write about comms risks and business assurance, not about myself. This is one occasion where I feel it is necessary to mention the process by which we circulate news on talkRA. We receive a lot of information about the state of the industry. Only a fraction of this gets publicly shared on the website. Why? Because a lot is told to us in strict confidence, and even more is unverifiable. I did not set up talkRA so it could tell tales. Nevertheless, a so-called ‘leading’ RA vendor has disappeared completely up its own backside, and the lack of official news means that we, like commercial news outlets, have written bugger all about it. (That said, we have written a whole lot more than the so-called media professionals, people who spend their lives copying and pasting press releases.) This is not an acceptable situation. Jokers like Connectiva spend disproportionate amounts on trying to get their marketing repeated by real journalists (do they exist?) pseudo-journalists (too many to count) and genuine sources of news (talkRA). It cannot be right that a supplier to many telcos just disappears and resurrects itself without that getting any news coverage. If it were not for the blog of disaffected employees, there would have been hardly any public updates about Connectiva since they collapsed in 2011.

So let me make a promise about the future of talkRA. In future, where appropriate, we will cover the absence of news as conscientiously as we cover the news that comes our way. We have learned our lesson. Businesses like Connectiva love to communicate when it suits them, but otherwise cannot be trusted to communicate to anyone – employees, customers, or the rest of the world. That puts us in a difficult position. The biggest stories may be the ones that nobody wants to talk about. But they still need to be talked about. And when it comes to learning our lesson, we really look forward to the moment when Connectiva-Mara-Izon-Whatever decides they are ready to market their services again. We will not do what the schmucks do. We will not act like our spouse went to fetch milk at the corner store, and returned 18 months later, with no further explanation needed. Oh no. Questions will be asked. The absence of answers will be ruthlessly pointed out.

Meanwhile, another rumour is that the former Connectiva boss, Avi Basu, is working for the resurrected company. He used to love telling the world what he thought about everything, though seemingly he has nothing to say about corporate turnarounds. So we thought former Connectiva employees, laid off and cheated out of their pay, might like this reminder of Basu’s former communicative glory. We found this excellent video where Basu explains the importance of being compassionate when firing staff…

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It is worth remembering that when business models get disrupted, the disciplines embedded in those business models also get disrupted. OTT providers of content are disrupting older business models. By doing so, they also create a new dynamic for managing fraud and assuring revenues – one that fits and supports the way that OTT providers make money and the particular kinds of frauds they suffer. And this opens up possibilities for vendors to service their specialist needs. Who will fill the gap? One such firm is Farncombe, a British professional services company that focuses on digital media, and TV in particular. They have just launched a monitoring service that protects OTT content providers by detecting piracy and fraud; see their press release here. With many traditional electronic comms providers needing to revamp their business model to compete with OTT, and opting for revenue models where content charges generate a larger slice of revenues compared to access and usage charges, there will be increasing demand for revenue protection services like Farncombe’s. Will firms like Farncombe get an ever-greater foothold into these telcos, or will the vendors of traditional telco RA and FMS extend their offerings to match the new threats to their customers? When it comes to fraud and criminality, everybody needs to run to keep pace with change, and that is true of traditional telcos, disruptive players, and suppliers.

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Lookout Mobile Security has issued their 2012 report into the threats they are encountering, and it makes for both uncomfortable and compelling reading. You can find the report here. One of Lookout’s conclusions is that there has been a huge rise in mobile malware which exploits unwary customers by secretly connecting to premium SMS services. And the report names Russia as the global cesspool for fraud malware, due to its lax regulatory regime and the fact that a staggering 41.6% of Russian devices harbour at least one example of malware or spyware.

It appears the problem with Russian mobiles and business practices is so extensive that it occupies the full spectrum from legally (but immorally) cheating customers on one end, to out-and-out crime on the other end. A recent BBC story highlighted customer outrage with Russian networks like MTS. MTS and other networks send customers an SMS telling them they have been signed up for services they did not ask for. If the customer does not cancel in time, they are walloped with the bill. And in the UK, the premium service regulator issued a GBP50k (USD80k) fine to a Russian firm that supplied dodgy Android software. Once installed, the software sent texts to a premium service without the knowledge of customers. The regulator’s adjudication is summarized here.

There is a global epidemic of stealing from and ripping off mobile users. Operators with integrity face an uphill task in preserving the trust of the public. And the evidence from Russia reveals how, when the rot sets in, it soon spreads and infects everything.

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