IT is one of the largest advertisers in West Bengal,a prominent sponsor in the Indian Premier League (those watching IPL on TV are not likely to have missed the Rose Valley logo that shines on the lead chest of Kolkata Knight Riders players) and an influential media player in the state,neighbouring Assam,Tripura and distant Orissa. Media and marketing,however,are not the primary pursuits of the Rose Valley group.
The group,in fact,is a clone of Saradha Group,albeit a bigger one. Till 2010,the groups bread and butter came from collective investment schemes and after being asked by Sebi to stop raising funds from public in 2011,it claims to have moved to raising funds via Time Sharing schemes,which dont fall under Sebis purview.
Sources say the group is collecting funds to the tune of Rs 100-150 crore a month from investors that include its own field staff of 20 lakh agents. According to Sebi,the group may have raised more than Rs 4,000 crore from millions of investors till 2010 alone through schemes such as Aashirvaad under which it promised housing at the end of 10 years against regular investments.
In a letter sent on Friday to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking support in pacifying panicking investors,Rose Valley Group chairman claimed that the group had assets worth Rs 10,000 crore and was fully equipped to pay off investors,if need be. The financial statement of one of his flagship companies,however,suggested otherwise. According to information filed with the Registrar of Company Affairs,Rose Valley Real Estate Constructions Ltd had amassed losses of Rs 223 crore over a revenue of Rs 42 crore in the year ended March 2012.
Like Saradha,Rose Valley too owns multiple media platforms in states it operates in. Launched in 2009,Brand Value Communications Ltd,a group company,today owns and operates nine TV channels. Besides general entertainment,music,films and tour and travel genres,the group owns at least five news channels that include News Time Bangla; News Time Assam; Khabar 365 Din in the rest of the states in north east and Odisha Time. It also publishes a daily titled Khabor 365 Din. While the group claims its news platforms stand for honesty and transparency,sources allege they are aligned with the governments in charge and play a crucial role in shielding the groups other business interests.
Like Saradha,Rose Valley,too,is a massively diversified group with interests across various unrelated sectors. Besides investment schemes,the group has interests in real estate,housing finance,tour and travel,foods and beverages (sells ground spices,biscuits,edible oil,tea and packaged drinking water under Taste Me brand),merchandise (mens clothing under Apple brand name),marketing solutions,information technology and film production sectors. It also sells life and general insurance and plans to begin a helicopter service soon. It is not clear if the group has the licence to sell insurance. Incidentally,it was an agent of the Life Corporation of India till 2008 and allegations are that under this garb,it was raising funds for its own schemes. The group,however,refutes the allegation.
Rose Valley group took roots in mid-90s and today,has close to 31 registered companies. A large number of these is headquartered in West Bengal and 43-year-old Kundu is a majority shareholder and a director in all these. According to information gathered by The Indian Express,the company earlier generated funds promising people housing and now,sells shares in its resorts and hotels and these funds are used to fund myriad businesses launched by the group and thus,the claim of having assets worth Rs 10,000 crore. The group currently has such properties in Rajasthan,Uttarakhand,Delhi,West Bengal,northeastern states and Port Blair among other places. The group is estimated to have a land bank of around 10,000 acres. Rose Valleys rivals say the fact that the group managed to get such a huge amount of land in a span of around 15 years in itself is a scam.