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Looking forward, always

From its inception, The Ken set out to not just be a window into what’s going on today, but what will happen in the days and months to come. Over the past year, we often found ourselves gazing into our crystal ball to give you an idea of what to expect in the future. Here are some instances of stories that accurately predicted future developments

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Our reporters are constantly on the lookout for the next big piece of news. We don’t aim for the low-hanging fruit, because we know that’s not why you come to us. Take Venkat’s MX Player story, for example.

The secret wedding of Times Internet and MX Player

In January, six months before it was officially announced, Venkat broke the news of Times Internet’s acquisition of the South Korean-born MX Player app. He wrote that Times Internet wanted MX Player as part of its renewed push in the OTT video space. At the time we published the story, MX Player didn’t even have an official website, just a Facebook page. When the deal was officially announced later in the year, it was revealed to have cost Times Internet a staggering Rs 1,000 crore.

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Sidhartha, our resident crypto-buff, teamed up with Arundhati to do a piece on the crypto scene in India. They were the first to predict a crypto crackdown by the RBI in the near future. It happened three months later, when the RBI issued a circular asking banks to refrain from offering services to crypto exchanges.

Our readers were quick to chime in

You can read the piece here.

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Even as most were still trying to contemplate the sheer scale of the Indian government’s National Health Protection Scheme, otherwise known as Ayushman Bharat, we were busy dissecting it to see what would happen down the line. Ruhi predicted that health insurers wouldn’t come on board, and that has since proved to be a major problem for Ayushman Bharat.

To read the piece, click here.

Modicare

From our story

NHPS is the first announcement of a major market-based solution to the health crisis in India. It is pinned on tripartite trust between the state, the insurer and the hospital. And since the state has broken its promise of consistent payments and a sustainable market, the insurers and hospitals do not see the health insurance market doubling with NHPS.

To read the piece, click here.

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We also love our investigative stories. Digging past carefully crafted corporate facades to expose what lies beneath is truly an art, and it’s one that we specialise in. Take, for example, Infibeam. Infibeam increased profits 10X while pivoting from an e-commerce company to a services firm. Sounds great, right? Well, back in June, Sidhartha and Patanjali found that things at Infibeam didn’t quite add up.

What happened next:

On Friday, 28 September 2018, the stock price of Infibeam fell by 70%—the second worst single-day fall since the infamous Satyam, which crashed by 83% in 2009. In October, market regulator Sebi ordered a forensic audit into Infibeam based on its irregular price movement. Today, the stock trades at less than a third of what it was at when we published our story.

For the full story, click here.

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There was also the case of Vakrangee, a Mumbai-headquartered IT services company. Once again, Sidhartha and Patanjali dug deep into the company and painted a picture of an entity whose business model, share price, and business dealings made no sense. Just over a month after the story, the company’s auditor—PricewaterhouseCoopers—resigned, flagging concerns about the company’s books of accounts. The company is now a shadow of what it was when our story went live.

Vakrangee-lede.jpg

From our story

The company, headed by Dinesh Nandwana, has a business model, which can be best described as a supermarket for financial inclusion services. It has white label ATMs, helps people open and run bank accounts, gives out money to those enrolled in rural employment schemes, enables people to buy insurance, and, in some cases, it helps customers connect to Amazon, which is trying to reach the rural populace of the country.

To offer these services, Vakrangee has outlets, which it calls kendras. It claims it has over 40,000 such kendras in the country. In Kota, it has 146 kendras listed on the website. Of the 146, The Ken visited 20 centres. Of the 20, only four were fully functional. It means they had a working ATM, a tie-up with a public sector bank and offered eMitra services provided by the Rajasthan government—essentially a centre for bill payment and voter registration. Eight other centres had no services except for eMitra.

The rest were never part of Vakrangee. Some had applied to be part of the network, but for one reason or another, they were never operational, and others had never even applied for a franchise.

To read the full story, click here.

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We also had a number of predictions from previous years that played out in 2018. For example, we were the first to call TrueCaller’s acquisition of payments app Chillr. A whole 10 months before the deal actually went through in June 2018.

Chillr feels the chill. Cold winds of consolidation blow over the payments landscape

2 years, $7 million in funding and 2 million users later, payment app Chillr is up for sale. Buyer No.1 is Truecaller, whose payment ambitions are an enigma. Buyer No. 2 is HDFC Bank, Chillr’s biggest partner

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Back in October 2016, we also investigated the Heera Business Group, which sought to leverage its Islamic identity to get devout Muslims to part with their savings in return for too-good-to-be-true returns. Back then, we pointed out that the company’s finance scheme didn’t make any sense. Almost exactly two years on from our story, Heera’s CEO was arrested on charges of duping hundreds of investors of around Rs 500 crore ($71.5 million).

The Long Con

From our story

So, a company that claims to make at least 80% return on investments, tells you to pledge your Islamic values and your life’s savings to it doesn’t have any license to do most of the businesses that it claims to do.

None of it makes sense. Perhaps, only a matter of time till the house of cards comes tumbling down.

To read the full story, click here.

These were just a few of the cases where we proved that we are ahead of the curve. We don’t just report the news; we dissect and analyse it so that you get a forward-looking perspective. Expect a lot more of these kinds of stories in the new year. And in the spirit of this piece, here’s a prediction for 2019—we’re only going to get better.

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