It was supposed to be Kerala’s big moment under the smartphone sun. There were full page advertisements in all top Malayalam dailies, and there were web reports calling it the new “iPhone killer”.
But Mango Phone, or mPhone, got peeled on the day of its launch with promoters Anto Augustine, 32, and Josekutty Augustine, 24, both brothers from Kalpetta in Wayanad district, getting arrested for allegedly duping the Kalamassery branch of Bank of Baroda. They were arrested from the venue of the big ticket launch in Kochi.
Police claim the two had defrauded many banks, and were arrested for submitting false land documents for a loan and had been absconding for almost a year.
Rojy Augustine, another sibling who is also chairman of the company, told The New Indian Express that the arrests are suspicious coming on the day of the launch. He claims they have no knowledge of the Bank of Baroda case. In fact, he went on to launch the phones despite the police action on his brothers.
mPhone Electronics and Technologies from Kochi was supposed to change the smartphone market, at least down in God’s Own Country, with a handful of smartphones that cater to all types of customers.
There was the top-end mPhone 11 Plus priced around Rs 39,999 and even a mPhone 5s priced Rs 11,999 with five other models in between. The company even promised a Rs 12,999 m2 smartwatch and a slew of accessories from wireless chargers to power banks and headphones. One look at their website, and you would wonder how the rest of India missed such a big brand in the making.
Unlike the Freedom 251 from Ringing Bells, there is nothing unbelievable about the specs or pricing of these mPhones. Everything on their site is something easily available on the shop shelves in Shenzen. But police now claim this was also part of an elaborate cheating attempt.
A January 11 report in Rediff, notes: “The company, reportedly helmed by group of Malayalis, was founded on an initial investment of Rs 3500 crore.” That would be the annual turnover of a respectable smartphone brand in India. Also, a report in The New Indian Express said the company, “which has more than four years of handset manufacturing experience, has a research and development centre in Korea and the main manufacturing unit in Shenzhen, China”.
Another news item in Mathrubhumi said the company had paid Rs 30 lakh to an event management firm for the launch.
Interestingly, none of the tech bloggers in Kerala have seen the phone. One of them even said, they were not on the invite list for the launch and only big media houses were invited.