Thousands of people from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh gathered in Coimbatore on Monday, January 29, following a police case against MY V3 Ads, an online Multi Level marketing (MLM) company. Normally, such crowds gather when an MLM scam breaks out, however in this case, people arrived on trucks, lorries, and tractors, and assembled at the Neelambur L&T bypass road in Coimbatore alleging that the case taken up by the Coimbatore Central Crime Branch police was false and urged the police to withdraw it. The road roko continued for three hours until the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) pacified the protesters.
MY V3 ADS is an online Multi-Level Marketing Business (MLM) company run by Sakthi Anandan, a resident of Thaliyur in the Coimbatore district. It offers people money for watching ads on YouTube channels. However, people have to pay the company to become a member of this business. As per reports, there are several categories to become a member of this business. The membership ranges from Rs 360 to Rs 21,000. The company promised a person would earn money between Rs 5 to Rs 1800 per day by watching YouTube ads. MY V3 ADS has more than 50 lakh subscribers and it sells home appliances, health and beauty care products.
Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a prevalent strategy where companies incentivize existing customers or distributors to recruit new members, forming a layered network. While this can appear like a mutually beneficial system, MLM has often morphed into pyramid schemes and in many cases, companies have vanished into thin air after raking in significant sums through initial sign-up fees. The ethicality of such schemes have often been questioned.
MY V3 ADS got into trouble for giving Ayurvedic medicines to its members, members are then expected to rope in others. Giving medicines to people without being monitored by medical practitioners is illegal. According to reports, Cyber Crime Police Sub Inspector Muthu filed a case against MY V3 ADS. Subsequently, on January 11, Ashok Srinidhi, district secretary of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) also lodged a complaint against the company citing that scammers are trying to extort money from the people by claiming that members can earn large sums of the amount by watching YouTube ads.
Based on these complaints, the Coimbatore Cyber Crime Department booked the company, on January 19, under section 4 (penalty) of Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act 1978 and sections 3 (banning of unregulated deposit schemes) and 6 (certain scheme to be unregulated deposit scheme) of the Banning Unregulated Deposit Schemes Act 2019.
However, Sakthi released an audio urging his customers to gather on January 29 in front of the Coimbatore Collectorate to fight against false complaints. He also stated that several people were trying to bring the company down by spreading false accusations. He requested the customers to bring their family members to show solidarity with the company.
On the morning of January 29, he released another audio stating that neither his company nor his customers were responsible for the protest but people who filed a false complaint against the company were responsible for it. In the audio clip, he can be heard urging his customers to gather at the L&T bypass rather than the collectorate as the city would come to a standstill if everyone gathered at the collectorate. The customers who staged a protest in Coimbatore claimed that they earned by watching ads and they never had the feeling that the company would scam the people as many MLMs tend to do.
A driver from Ambur who participated in the protest stated that he earned only Rs 7000 before joining the MLM business and that his monthly income had increased to about 57,000. He also claimed that people are trying to close the company by lodging a false complaint against MY V3 ADS.
Raja, another protester from Ambur, told reporters that no one forced him to invest or become a member of this business. He also said that if the company collapses, the livelihoods of lakhs of people would be impacted. According to him, he bought Unani tablets for Rs 1,21,000 from the company and earned Rs 480 per day by watching videos on YouTube.
Speaking to reporters, Ashok Srinidhi the complainant said that the protest was not organic. “People have not gathered on their own will or come here to show solidarity to the company. They were threatened that they would lose the money they invested if the police acted upon the case filed against the company,” he noted.
He also pointed out that there was a ban in India for such pyramid schemes and highlighted that in 2019, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) lodged a complaint against 6 such companies but no action was taken during the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime. Ashok urged the government to arrest Sakthi Anandan.