An extraordinary LinkedIn post from the organizer of a telecoms revenue assurance and fraud management conference has accused rival events of being ‘scams’ and ‘frauds’. This is what Mohammed Ali of Falcon Business Research wrote:
Kindly be aware of Scams. I have listed below 2 companies which are fraud.
The post also included a screen grab taken from the Quintus website, focusing on the section where they described themselves as event and conference organizers with a team that has 15 years’ worth of collective experience.
Mr. Ali is currently promoting two events to be held in Dubai: the ‘Global Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum’ which will occur in April, and the ‘Telco Big Data Analytics & Customer Experience Management Summit 2016′, which is scheduled for May. Falcon also lists other upcoming conferences on its website, but some of the details are sketchy.
The subjects of the accusations are promoting conferences whose scope and geographical location makes them competitors to Falcon’s Dubai events. Quintus’ event is described as the ‘Telecom Fraud Control and Revenue Assurance Forum’, and is scheduled for June in Vienna. UBC has two events listed, both described as ‘Governance, Risk and Compliance Forums’. One is scheduled for April in Nairobi, whilst the other states it will be in Dubai during September.
Mr. Ali’s profile says he is both the Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of VIP Relations at Falcon. In February Mr. Ali used LinkedIn to contact me about the two Falcon events, sending me unsolicited brochures and asking “if this would be something you would like to consider joining us”. I declined the offer to be an unpaid ‘media partner’ for the events, and responded with a counter-offer to carry a paid advert for the RAFM event, proposing terms which Mr. Ali seemingly agreed to. Although I issued an invoice to Falcon, there has been no transaction between the businesses, nor was there any further communication until I telephoned Mr. Ali about this story.
The UBC website lists 11 senior risk and compliance professionals who will reportedly speak at the Nairobi GRC forum in April. Several sponsors are also named, but no information is provided about the venue. The site has no information about their Dubai event, apart from stating the date.
The Quintus RAFM conference in Vienna is also short of details. It currently lists 5 speakers, a single sponsor, and no mention is made of the venue. However, as the event is scheduled for June it is not that unusual for details to be patchy at this stage. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that Quintus seems to be unsure about how to spell its own name. Whilst their website URL is indisputably spelled quintuss.com, their name has a single ‘s’ everywhere else.
Local and personal rivalries may be one explanation for the ill-will between these businesses. Though Falcon, UBC and Quintus promote international events in a range of cities, they are all based in Bangalore, India. This was borne out when I spoke with Mohammed Ali to ask why he described the Quintus and UBC Compliance events as ‘scams’. Though I caught him at an inconvenient moment, he briefly explained:
The organizers of these companies were working in my company and they have kept the data from my company. And they are using the same data [about customers]…
They are Bangalore-based and we are also Bangalore-based, so we have a good reputation in revenue assurance and fraud management market and all the leading vendors in fraud management and revenue assurance, from one to ten, top ten, they all sponsor our event. And some of them have come to me asking about these two companies… Some vendors in the market who are my sponsors they asked me to update about it to other people. That’s the only reason I posted it to LinkedIn.
Mr. Ali has since emailed me with more detailed allegations, which mostly relate to UBC and John Ngaihte. Mr. Ali described Mr. Ngaihte as the owner of UBC. Interestingly, John Ngaihte’s LinkedIn profile makes no mention of UBC, but it does describe him as co-founder and COO of Falcon Business Research. This corroborates Mr. Ali’s assertion that Mr. Ngaihte formerly worked at Falcon, and may have sought to siphon customers from Falcon to a new business.
I called UBC’s main contact number to advise them of Mr. Ali’s accusations, and to give UBC an opportunity to comment. A gentlemen called Leon answered the telephone; Leon stated that he had no knowledge of Mohammed Ali or of any claims of fraudulent activity by UBC. Leon was unwilling to discuss the matter further, citing the late hour. I offered to call him back at a more convenient time, but he was unwilling to arrange that call, and he suggested we correspond by email instead. When I observed that this article was scheduled for Monday morning, he was unwilling to compromise in order to provide input before publication, even though I reiterated that the accusation had already been made on the internet and hence merited an urgent response.
My attempts to call Quintus to obtain their response were unsuccessful. When I telephoned the primary contact number listed on their website, I was played a recorded message saying the number was currently ‘switched off’.
I spoke to another reliable source who was also invited to speak at the Quintus forum in Vienna, and was willing to talk about the experience on condition of anonymity. They said the invitation had been received via LinkedIn from a lady named Rumela Halder, and that it appeared to be genuine. This was the first time that they had been contacted by Rumela Halder, and they had no knowledge of her business. They had decided not to respond because they were not interested in taking part. The text below is quoted from the invitation received via LinkedIn:
I am glad to inform you that we are organizing a Summit on Telecom fraud Control and Revenue Assurance Forum in Austria 2016 and I would like to invite you as a Keynote speaker for the summit. The event will be held on 16th and 17th of June 2016 at Vienna. kindly provide me your official email address and mobile number so that my team can reach you and explain the details Looking forward to hearing from you.
I checked Rumela Halder’s LinkedIn profile, which appeared genuine to me. Though she seems to be a young lady with very limited work experience, she has used LinkedIn to connect to a string of top RAFM professionals. If the Quintus event is a scam, it is an elaborate one. In reality, it may be more appropriate to say their event will be real, if enough people decide to attend, but Quintus may have resorted to sharp practices in order to identify potential customers.
My feeling is that Falcon should not have publicly accused competitors of fraud without also explaining the reasons why, and without providing evidence to substantiate the claim. Fraud is a serious accusation, not to be made lightly. Even if the claims are true, it is necessary to show the justification for the claim, and to allow the accused an opportunity to defend themselves. However, I am glad that Mr. Ali has made some effort to explain the basis of his claims to me.
Furthermore, it may be hard to get a balanced evaluation, if the targets of Mr. Ali’s criticism are unwilling or unable to defend themselves. Falcon does appear to have been running events for a lot longer than SBC or Quintus; Falcon has the advantage in terms of credibility. The integrity of UBC and Quintus has been denounced publicly. It is up to UBC and Quintus to rebut the accusations. There is an irony that these small firms want to be paid for educating big businesses about the management of risks, but they probably lack the skills to best defend their own business reputation. If somebody publicly accused me of criminal activities, I would respond without delay!
The saddest truth is that our industry has ventured down similar paths before, paying for training and events which were run by charlatans. African telcos have been especially plagued by cheats and liars, but they are not the only ones. We all still need to learn from past mistakes. Some telco employees want training, but their businesses are too cheap to pay the proper price for it. The result is an unrealistic chasm between what the student expects to learn, and the value of the education they will actually receive. Anybody can pretend to be an expert on anything. Any event can add the word ‘global’ to their title, and promise to deliver a world-class event. But basic economics and common sense should guide us: if you cannot explain why a top expert would be willing to fly to your city to give you training at bargain basement rates, then you have to reflect on whether the person providing that service is really as knowledgeable as they pretend to be.
I have spent a large part of my career trying to identify ways to improve the quality of education whilst reducing its cost. Anyone can make grand promises and run over-hyped one-off commercial activities, but sustained success means delivering a win-win for both the provider and the recipient of knowledge. Commsrisk is one example of how I have tried to tackle the challenge, where education is delivered drip-drip-drip via the internet, in the form of news and opinions. Another example is my participation in the Risk & Assurance Group; instead of telling people that top experts are willing to fly to see them, we are going to bring the best experts to London, and ask the rest of the world to join us there. And I am heartened by the way Michael Lazarou’s Studying Data Science series is helping people to find good sources of education online, and also by the tweets generated in response to his posts, which shows they appeal to a much wider audience than the regular Commsrisk base.
In contrast, I am saddened by the claims made by Falcon, which suggest some comms sector professionals continue to allow education to be debased. Our area of expertise rightly deserves more criticism when we accept training from liars and cheats. How should we think of a fraud manager who falls victim to a fraud? What about the risk manager who cannot see the risks when being invited to speak at a bogus event? And how should we feel about an auditor who does not do even a basic background check before paying an unknown firm for education? Checks do not have to be sophisticated: consider what kind of global training business has a phone number which does not allow callers to leave a message outside of office hours!
We need to place our own house in order, and that means relying less on others – or on Commsrisk – to investigate claims of unprofessional behavior and shady practice by organizers of training events. It means we must treat professional reputations as more than just a list of what seminars you can write on a CV; some people reading your CV will be able to tell the difference between a real event and a flagrant scam, even if you cannot. And it means resisting the temptation to cheat ourselves, which occurs whenever we spend time and money on education which is over-hyped but of inferior quality. It is not just your companies which are cheated, when they pay the bill for a lousy training event. You also pay, by failing to develop your own potential.
It is an interesting article. Falcon and Quintus are both Indian companies. Both are in competition and obviously this competition is tough. John, who was mentioned in your article is real. I met him in person last year in Dubai.
Quintus on the other hand, i dont know. We were asked to sponsor this event and agreed (ARES) to do so as it would be held in Austria, which is our home. However, their responses were very slow and just yesterday i have pulled out.
I think both companies are genuine, however Mr. Ali from Falcon seems to he a hot head. In any case, both are far from being professional. Thats for sure.
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Who knew that Bangalore was home to so many rival organizers of niche telco conferences? I find that an amazing coincidence.
I noticed that ARES was listed as a sponsor of the Quintus event. Withdrawing your support must have come as a blow to Quintus. But if I’m honest, I am most surprised by the choice of location. Vienna is a lovely city but expensive, and telcos are tightening their belts. Would you care to comment on the geographical area that Quintus was targeting, and hence which telcos you were hoping to meet at the event? I would have thought the richer Middle Eastern telcos would have preferred a location closer to home, the North African telcos would be priced out, and the Western European telcos would find it tough to justify the expense.
Quintuss wanted to go to Vienna and i did not block them from doing so since the location was convenient to me.
Vienna is as expensive as Dubai, London or Paris. They wanted to focus on European telcos since there was demand from some vendors for a European event in order to focus on the new EU legislation on roaming and the effects this would have.
The fight with Falcon ended everything. I was badly insulted by Mr. Mohamed Ali, and since then, he started his own personal vendetta.
So, i pulled out. Rest of the story including recent events you know.
Hi Eric, glad to learn about your interest to identify about scams in the Industry. But it is displeasing about the facts your quoted on Quintus and term them as scam… I understand your opinions are based on few observations and facts you have observed. I know the team who work in Quintus and may I convey that the team works with integrity and is genuinely striving towards bringing value to the Industry with their event organizing Competency. You can seek the firm for appropriate transparency. I understand Quintus as a brand is new to Telecom Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management, though the personnel has experience in them. However, everyone has a start and I’m sure the team will grow big. As small firm the mission is to help big firms solve their big problems by bringing in the right set of people. I’m sure you agree that more than the size of firm, the people who gather will make the highest form of impact together in the management of risks. I’m sure this encounter can be a great opportunity for Quintus to form a Master Mind relationship with experts like you and deliver the most potent value. This article comes as a great adversity for Quintus right at the start and I believe “Every Adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit”. As beginners we look up to working in harmony based on a definite motive, I’m sure you are willing to cooperate and nurture good talents. Thank you once again for your interest.
Hello Samson, thank you for the offer of a relationship with Quintus. However, that will be difficult with your Head of Legal Compliance, Naveen Kumar, currently threatening legal action.
My advice is that it is counter-productive to threaten legal action without first specifying what legal wrong has supposedly occurred. Libel laws are complicated. Reporting a rumour can be defamatory but this is no simple rumour – Mr Ali’s assertion was made on LinkedIn and is visible to a large number of people who also read Commsrisk. It is currently still visible on LinkedIn, and has received several ‘likes’ from telco professionals!
Instead of seeking to censor my website, I would rather hear how Quintus will use the law to obtain redress from Mr. Ali and Falcon Business Research. If you go to court, the advantage for me is that every claim can be reported without fear, and everybody will see the conclusion of the case. Furthermore, it would surely be more convenient to take Mr. Ali to court, as you are both based in India.
I found it bizarre that your Head of Legal Compliance chose to cc Mr. Ali on the email threatening my business with legal action. You know this because you were cc’d as well. It would have made more sense to threaten Mr. Ali with legal action, and to cc me, instead of vice versa.
Finally, let me observe that many years ago my reputation was enhanced when I reported that the organizers of a different conference, the World RA Forum, were misleading people they had contacted, and had made misleading statements on their website. The organizers did not sue me; the event was cancelled soon after. But before it was cancelled, and before all record of the event was erased by its backers, I came under a lot of pressure to censor the story. I did not censor myself then. I see no reason to do so now.
All these companies, including FBR suffer from lack of professionalism. The new entry with identical credentials is Fexton – same story.
Mr. Ali complains about his employees leaving and setting up their own shops but that does not make those companies scams or con artists. It is common for people to leave a company and take their contact database with them. What actually does make them scams is their inability to actually arrange these events professionally – But then, that includes FBR as well !
Each one of these companies (including FBR) miscommunicate (i don’t want to use the word Lie) about confirmed lists of guests/ speakers, they change venues at the last minute, don’t make satisfactory arrangements at the venue, etc. they arrange events where they aren’t present themselves, making it absolutely chaotic. Most sponsors he talks about are perhaps one time sponsors who will not make the same mistake again.
I believe you misunderstood the email. What was meant to be communicated was that any further defamation attempts by the likes of Mr. Ali will not be taken lightly. I completely understand that your article is only weighing the facts against the allegations for the benefit of the RAFM industry. However, don’t you think it’s a little unfair that between Mr. Ali and your analysis of the situation, the business which suffers is ours? If anything we have only attempted to run an honest business.
Quintus would like to take this situation with a pinch of salt and gather the insights shared by some of the reputed delegates of this industry. Sorry to hear that your experience has not been the best in your dealings with some of event organizers. Quintus will take utmost care to deliver a supreme experience through all of its future endeavors.
Eric, In future do lend us 48 hrs to respond to any such investigation, if more homo sapiens of the likes of Mr. Ali decide to defame their competitors rather than playing a fair game.
It is my sincere request to the entire RAFM industry to provide Quintus with a fair chance. Please don’t judge us on competitor reviews. Judge us on the ROI we deliver for you, your business and your time.
I do not understand why you, a marketing manager, are trying to explain the meaning of a message written by Naveen Kumar, the Head of Legal Compliance at Quintus. The threat was plain and the message was addressed to me, not to Mr. Ali.
Naveen Kumar’s threat was crude and obvious: Quintus will use the law to punish my business for publishing facts that do not suit you. I don’t like that threat. I didn’t found this venture to pursue profit, and I’ll be damned before I allow Quintus to suppress free speech. If forced to make a choice, I would rather bankrupt my company by fighting Quintus in court than be bullied into changing editorial decisions.
If I bow to this threat, then what would come next? Suppose I wrote a review after your Vienna event, saying that paid customers thought it was lousy. Would you threaten legal action then? I want to draw the line here, making it clear that your business will never influence the editorial policy of Commsrisk with threats like these.
I have tried to engage Naveen Kumar directly, but received no response. When legal threats are issued I want to speak to lawyers, not marketeers. If your corporate lawyer was the least bit competent you would have been told to cease all communication with me. I’m amazed at the amateurish way your lawyer and the rest of your business has responded to my article. Over the last few days Commsrisk has received email and social media messages from a gaggle of different Quintus managers – and I find it remarkable that your firm employs so many managers whilst putting on so few events. If anybody should be censored, it is your management team, who are behaving like an uncoordinated rabble of inexperienced goofs. After threatening legal action, the only person who should be communicating with me is your corporate lawyer – but Naveen Kumar has gone silent and is unwilling to take my calls!
I have been doing this for a lot longer than Quintus has been doing whatever it does. In that time, much bigger and better businesses than Quintus have realized they will gain nothing by trying to intimidate me. You should be conscious that I will continue to do what I have been doing, knowing that your corporate lawyer is a big-talking coward who resorts to bullying tactics in a pathetic attempt to censor the free press. That is the reputation that Quintus now deserves, based on how its people have actually behaved, and I will take pride in unequivocally and honestly communicating these facts about your business.