Google India in scam
Mocality is the most successful Directory business in Kenya. They have paid out more than $100,000 to crowd source the most accurate business directory in that country. According to their stats, about 2/3rds of all Kenyan business use Mocality to launch their presence on the internet
In September, 2011, Google launched Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO) which at a level competes with Mocality. And soon afterwards Google started its dirty tricks to undermine Mocality. Google employees in Africa (and India), in an attempt to harm Mocality, started calling up Mocality customers and gave them a false impression that Mocality would charge them later. And even that Mocality was associated with Google.
Mocality did a sting operation and found out how Google Africa and Google India were trying to undermine their business. Mocality CEO Stefan has published the results of their sting operation to expose Google
I’d like you to meet Douglas. On this call (first 2 minutes) you can clearly hear Douglas identify himself as Google Kenya employee, state, and then reaffirm, that GKBO is working in collaboration with Mocality, and that we are helping them with GKBO, before trying to offer the business owner a website (and upsell them a domain name). Over the 11 minutes of the whole call he repeatedly states that Mocality is with, or under (!) Google.
Between 10am and 1pm on December 21st, we received 6 others just like it (from 5 different Google Kenya employees) before switching back to normal service. We estimate that this team were calling 20-25 Mocality business per hour, since 7 calls over 3 hours, only 10% of calls redirected: 7*10/3= 23.3. calls/hour)
On all calls, the same script is followed – A Google Kenya employee calls a Mocality business and tries to deceive them into signing up for their competing product, by claiming that we are working together.
It gets worse: Here’s a complete transcript of another call, in which the caller goes further, claiming that Mocality engages in bait-and-switch practices to try and charge businesses upto Ksh. 20,000 ($200) for their listings. Mocality has never and will never charge for listings. The irony: on the same call, the caller tries exactly that tactic for GKBO’s hosting fees.
Having gathered our evidence, and needing to wait for transcription and translation (as parts of the conversations were in kiSwahili (the local East African language)) of the recordings, and feeling pleased with detective work, we had a lovely Christmas break. I started writing this blog post.
So that we had the latest stats on our return to work, we re-analysed the logs, on Monday 9th January.
There were no further accesses from the IP address 18.104.22.168 after 4pm 23rd December. Co-incidence? or had someone realised we were onto them?
However, there were some NEW strange messages from business owners- they’d apparently been contacted by a call centre in India with the same promise of a website.
So we reran the whole analysis. We quickly identified a new IP/User-Agent combination.
We found another IP address and User-Agent that accessed two businesses that had been contacted:
On 10th January, we re-enabled the Sting Operation code. Again, within a couple of hours, we’d received calls from the new call centre to our dummy numbers.
Here is Deepthi, from Google India. On this call, you can hear her talking about her partnership with Mocality, and offering us a free website.
It looks like Google has now outsourced the Getting Kenya Businesses Online operation to India!
Since this story broke, Google has apologized to Mocality and promised to investigate and tell them what really happened.