Forbes magazine's strange activism on behalf of the shady MLM QNet
A blog published by the international magazine Forbes on the founder of QNet, a notorious multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme, has been touted by agents of the company as a blue-chip endorsement. Now the same writer goes a step further to defend them by attacking Moneylife’s stance on the dodgy scheme. Not surprisingly, QNet, which refused to answer direct questions posed by Moneylife, appears to have provided detailed answers to this writer
Donald Frazier, a writer at Forbes, has done it again. This time, he endorses QNet, a typical MLM scheme, which has been luring hundreds of thousands Indians the same way Speak Asia did, while attacking Moneylife. The endorsement contains answers to specific queries raised by us. What is astonishing is that Frazier claims not to have met any detractors of QNet. Here is the latest on Forbes’ endorsement of a dubious operation that our Ministry of Corporate Affairs and its Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) are claiming to investigate.
The blog by Frazier on the website of Forbes Asia has repeatedly found mention in the comments section of Moneylife’s many articles on QNet as a credible endorsement of the scheme and its Malaysian-born promoter, Vijay Eswaran. The comments, ostensibly from independent representatives (IRs) of QNet, seek to allay the fears of potential victims of the scheme. When Moneylife tweeted the India editor of Forbes magazine to find out if it really was endorsing QNet, our articles were apparently brought to Frazier’s attention.
Since then, Frazier has tried to draw Moneylife into a dialogue and attempted to get us to supply him with a list of QNet detractors—something no self-respecting journalist ought to do. Now he has published a bigger endorsement of QNet, which, strangely enough, has Moneylife and its managing editor as its centrepiece. Does this mean that Moneylife’s investigation into the Singapore-registered QNet’s obviously shady business is hitting home? Read on for details.
Frazier’s latest blog starts with the strange premise that he invited Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife and founder-trustee of Moneylife Foundation, to use his blog as a “neutral site” for providing information on QNet. This is strange because Moneylife is an e-paper, in competition with Forbes, and we have posted several articles about QNet, which detail our standpoint. Frazier, however, seems confused about the difference between media entities and a shady corporate entity that would need his blog—either as a friendly or hostile site—to post views.
Mr Frazier also claimed that “She (Ms Dalal) also opted to not identify self-professed ‘victims’ of QNet who, she says, came out in one of her for-pay seminars in Mumbai a few weeks ago." This is interesting because Moneylife Foundation’s seminar was attended by two senior officers from the government’s SFIO who not only heard the victims but also participated in the discussion. There was an audience of over 50 persons that day.
He then goes on to pick up some direct and specific questions that Moneylife had posed to Zaheer Merchant, QNet’s director for corporate communications. Mr Merchant has yet to respond to us directly, but apparently made time to give Frazier a point-by-point reply. Ironically, the answers only prove our point that QNet’s reaction to our writings—way back in 2009—were to immediately offer an all-expenses paid trip to Hong Kong to Ms Dalal to “check out their operations”. It is not clear why an MLM selling holiday packages, watches and trinkets globally needs to fly journalists to Hong Kong. Mr Merchant says that many journalists accepted QNet’s invitation—it would be interesting to get a list of names, because analysing their writings on QNet, before and after visiting Hong Kong, would establish the impact of the trip.
The emails between Mr Frazier and Ms Dalal that are self explanatory...
On 3 December 2012, Mr Frazier wrote...
Dear Ms. Dalal -
Greetings, and I hope you are well.
You've apparently been much more successful than I have in finding detractors of QNet. Last week I sent you a message with a greater idea: what if you were to summarize all of the allegations of unsavory and illegal behavior by the company? I would run it in my column in Forbes, and demand that QNet answers them publicly.
I should post a column on reactions to the story anyway. I can get answers to all of your questions, helping your readers and mine.
Here's the link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/donaldfrazier/2012/10/24/selling-a-better-life/ (Originally in Forbes Asia's print edition for November.)
I hope to do this is a few days; please reply so that I know you received this,
On the same day, Ms Dalal replied, saying...
Dear Mr Frazier
Greetings and many thanks for your email. I guess you have written to me because everybody lured by QNet is quoting the "positive" coverage that QNet received from Forbes.
I am not sure you know, but we run a magazine (smaller than Forbes, certainly, but we are in the publication business). Our website www.moneylife.in has a big reach and our e-magazine goes out to over 75,000 people every day.
I am not sure why WE should summarise anything for YOU to publish in your BLOG. Completely flummoxed by the suggestion. Wouldn't it be far better if you were to visit our website, search for QNet and find everything we have to say on the matter for yourself?
If you are truly saying that you have not found anyone with anything negative to say about QNet, I can only say that you have not looked hard enough. We had several people at our seminar in Mumbai who would have happily provided details. Maybe a visit to the Serious Frauds Investigation Office in Mumbai or the police in Hyderabad will also help you get information.
I trust this is useful.
On 4 December 2012 Mr Frazier replied...
Hi Ms Dalal, and many thanks for your prompt, substantive note.
Yes, I was quite surprised to find my story commonly described as an ‘endorsement,’ as if coverage of any company confers a quasi-official ‘seal of approval’ on its activities. Mainly, given our focus on individual entrepreneurs at Forbes, it’s a story about the ascent of QNet’s founder who, you gotta admit, has indeed become rich and famous this way.
I’ve just discovered Moneylife. Your creation? I think its mixture of news coverage, commentary, blogging, tweeting and events could very well point the way for the future of journalism—at least in India, where the Jain brothers et al seem to be far in advance of the West in breaking down old conventions. I love its energetic tone of righteous indignation!
To answer your question, I thought you might prefer to assemble these various charges because that would give you a more cohesive, harder-hitting document. (Must confess: I also thought you might have fun with the confronting Qnet directly in my space.)
But no worries: I’ll take your advice, by gathering the disparaging references from Moneylife, your blog, your twitter feed etc, and running them in one document, and asking QNet to reply. I’ll be sure to attribute them to you. But some of these are more like allusions. For example, consider a twitter reply of 19 November, by a Ritesh Anand?@Rites40: @suchetadalal “Mam I am a direct victim of QuestNet/Goldquest, really want to kill those bastards, All these MLM are pure fraud.” Great copy, but it doesn’t give us as lot of information to go on.
(BTW I’m not a blogger—all of my stories for Forbes and Forbes Asia are for the paid print operation and subject to the same fact-checking, editing and so on. Forbes corporate uses the blogging platform to post everything they publish—no wonder you got the wrong impression.)
I’d be delighted to feature the people from your seminar in Mumbai. Bring them on!
I’ll do this over the next few days; please feel free to forward anything you’d like me to add to the mix.
Cheers – and thanks again for inspiring what will be a spirited dialogue.
On the same day, Ms Dalal replied, saying...
Greetings Mr Frazier...
Moneylife—our website also collates authentic information and cross checks it with the police, serious frauds office and government ministries.
Just for your information, we will not collate uninformed comments on Twitter or Facebook and use them in our reports or stories. Also, just by way of background, Debashis Basu (editor & founder of Moneylife) and I have over 27 years of journalistic experience, mainly in India's mainline press. So it’s not a little fun blog—and the “righteous indignation” you speak of is borne out of close observation of the Indian business scenario.
So no, we won’t “bring it on" .. We think each of us ought to do our own research and our own writing. Many thanks for your offer.
There are other things that the Forbes columnist apparently failed to notice when he was trawling the internet for Twitter feeds and comments. QNet and its IRs or sales agents specialise in creating duplicate domain names to manipulate search engines like Google. Moneylife had a firsthand experience of this. Maybe Mr Frazier should check this link: http://forbesmagazineqnet.1672098.free-press-release.com/.
Another result that appears on Google bears the title "Forbes Asia - Official QNet Blog – Qnet” (yes, the QNet people have used Forbes Asia as their page title!) The entry on this blog page says, "Vijay Eswaran in Forbes Philanthropy Heroes List!" Do we, or Mr Frazier, need more proof that shows how his article in Forbes is being misused by QNet to endorse its ‘business’?
QNet has done this to Moneylife as well. Check out moneylife.qnetlife.in and moneylife.qnetlife.net, which is clearly the handiwork of the QNet team and designed to mislead. Finally, here is a first-person account from a well-known television journalist, Ashu Dutt, on how he and his family became a victim of QNet. He sent this to Mr Frazier with a copy to us…
I got your reference from Sucheta Dalal. As a backgrounder I was the Chief Consulting Editor of Bloomberg TV and ET Now, Editor and Senior Anchor at CNBC-TV18 and Senior Anchor at NDTV/Star News. I am also a bestselling author of over a dozen books. So I hope this provides you with credibility in terms of a "detractor".
QI/QNet/QuestNet/GoldQuest/Faith Network is not just a fraud, but they lure women to break away from their families and then go after the family money. My own wife fell into this trap. I have 3 little children and she has put their future in jeopardy. They first lured her into their web using hypnotists (their Mumbai kingpin, Manjunath Hegde, is a hypnotist and they proudly declare him to be a "master of the mind". The network in Mumbai is run through another cult-like organization called "Faith Network".
Once this was done, they got her to put money from our house and relatives. Then they told her to kidnap our children and run away to Thailand (my kids are US and Thai citizens). Fortunately, Indian immigration stopped her from going to Thailand.
This is my story. I can tell you that there are hundreds of Indian families that have been ruined by these people. In Mumbai, they use hypnotism and cult-like practices (wearing white clothes with blue pendants).
Once they trap the women, they go after their wealth. My wife has now gone on to take over our assets by changing directors and doing all kinds of illegal corporate stuff guided by QI kingpins.
This is my personal experience and I come from your fraternity. I must say I was very dismayed to see a magazine of your standing put out an article about people who use hypnosis and destroy families.
QNet openly uses your article to mislead people. While it may just be an article for you, hundreds of homes have been destroyed. People are being sold Ponzi schemes in a country where the level of financial literacy and understanding of legal rights is very poor.
Hope you will do something to correct this distorted picture
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