Flix Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 05:30
  The Economic Times reported this morning that online classifieds portal Quickr was planning to buy real estate listing group Housing.com in a deal pegged at Rs. 1100 crore. Based on the ET report, multiple media outlets have reported on the speculative deal between Quickr and Housing.com. The ET report quotes sources and talks about "three people directly aware about the development", also stating that the "representatives of Quikr did not reply to emails seeking comment. In response to a questionnaire from ET, Housing's outgoing CEO Rahul Yadav wrote, 'Joke of the year." As it turned out later, Yadav was having fun at the expense of media by misleading them, perhaps because of the history of the his relationship with the media, especially the Times Group. The 26-year-old CEO and co founder of Housing.com has been in the news frequently of late. First, it was for his bombastic resignation letter calling investors ‘intellectually incapable’. Second, for a withdrawal of the resignation with a letter of unconditional apology and, more recently, recently for parting with his stock, valued between Rs 150-200 crore ,and dividing it among Housing.com’s employees. On the latest set of reports about Quickr acquiring Housing.com, Rahul responded to an email from vccircle confirming the news but later denying it while adding that promoters of a rival online property company were spreading rumours. So who are these ‘rival’ folks? Rahul, earlier in March, was in trouble after Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd (BCCL), the holding company for the Times Group served him a legal notice after Rahul alleged in a company email that the group, which owns his competitor MagicBricks, was set out to target and malign Housing.com. BCCL’s ownership of MagicBricks is well known, but ET’s reportage on the sector without a disclaimer of its conflict of interest in its reports is raising eyebrows. "If a newspaper publishes in its own pages any article or advertisement about one of its associates, there has to be a full disclosure that the paper has a direct or indirect relationship with the party mentioned. It is only when the relationship is covert that it is a problem," says journalist and media critic Paranjoy Guha Thakurta adding, "There is no law, rule or regulation in India that actually deals with conflict of interest." And the conflict of Times Group’s interest is not just in the online housing space. It is perhaps lesser known outside start-up and investment circles that the Times group, through its various arms like Times Internet Limited and TLabs, owns or has invested in several start-up ventures. TLabs is "a startup accelerator as well as an early stage seed-fund for Indian internet and mobile technology startups." This could potentially mean that the Times Group could place more news and advertisements of its associates in its media outlets as it would benefit them. Such reportage raises several ethical questions. Besides owning The Times Of India, The Economic Times, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Business Insider India and The Huffington Post, Times Group owns at least 33 startups through TLabs. Times Internet, which is the Internet subsidiary and of The Times of India Group is one of the largest online groups in India provides a wide range of services. Times Internet also has tie ups with various international brands and helps in the establishing their roots and growing in India. According to their website, "Times Global Partners is an initiative focused on partnering with Established and Emerging Global Digital Companies for growing their presence and business in India through growth of their brand, audience, adoption, distribution and monetization." Some companies in this list are Uber, IGN, Readwrite, Techradar, Dorkly and College Humour. Here is a list of their investments. So the next time one of their media outlets reports on these companies, their competitors or even the very sectors, you need to do your own due diligence! E-commerce In the field of e-commerce, India Times shopping, which started operations in 2000, provides footwear, apparel & accessories, lifestyle products, home decor, mobile phones, consumer electronics, health & personal beauty products, books, jewellery, baby products and flowers & gifts. The portal also reportedly has deals with various manufacturers of these products like Nokia (now Microsoft) for phones, Satvik Shop for ayurveda and Landmark for books to name a few. Apps and social networking sites The group also owns a mobile augmented reality app called "Alive app" besides a celebrity fan-connect application called "Follo" and "GreetZAP," an application that allows you to send greetings and cards to friends.It also owns a social networking site called itimes. Live streaming The group also owns music streaming website Gaana.com and video streaming entertainment website BoxTv along with FM Radio station Radio Mirchi. For news and coverage of cricket matches, the group owned gocricket.com but merged it with CricBuzz ahead of the 2015 world cup. Technology "Lifehacker," a website that recommends websites, software downloads, tutorials etc and Gizmodo India, the famous blog about electronic gadgets and technology is owned by The Times Group. Health HealthMeUp.com is a health and fitness website that offers tips on lifestyle on similar lines as Mensxp.com while iDiva.com targets women by offering beauty, health, relationship and career advice. Travel The Times group also owns Happy Trips, a platform to help travellers plan their next trip and Zigwheels for automobiles reviews, expert opinions on cars as well as bike pricing and other various motoring subjects. Add to all this, the group's recent take over of Coupon Dunia, India's largest digital coupon marketplace and you get a comprehensive list of all the properties owned by the parent company
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