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Home > MouthShut Threatened...Down with Extortionists
Dear Friends :

I wanted to update you on some recent unusual developments. About a month ago, a flood of unsolicited emails hit mailboxes of thousands of MouthShut members. The rather convoluted message in these emails had hateful content, some innuendos, mostly lies and a lot that made very little sense. The only apparent goal of this exercise was to sow seeds of distrust between MouthShut members and disrupt the functioning of this unique community.

We learned of this campaign instantly because my mailbox was immediately flooded with emails from concerned MouthShut members. What does one do when things like this occur? It's a free country and there is free speech, so there wasn't much for us to do.

Over the next few weeks a broader photo emerged. Nearly a month before this campaign our receptionist had received a mysterious phone call. Without identifying himself the caller made a strange demand: "Ask your CEO to pay xx amount or see the community on MouthShut disintegrate." I know, sounds like too much drama, right? We dismissed the call as an act of someone who had been watching too many bad Hindi movies and had missed out on proper upbringing at home. Then, on July 26, we received an even more strange email (original screenshot below) that seemed connected with this call. The writer of this email boasts of a "successful negative" campaign against MouthShut. He goes on to remind us that had we used his 'service' (meaning had we paid the extortion money) we would not have had to face the wrath of his campaign. Finally, he boastfully claims that he can put his "service" to work in our favor just as effectively as he had done it against us.

So the email campaign was not an innocent prank after all, rather a sinister mind was using extortion techniques. We turned the matter over to law enforcement. It was pursued by Mumbai Cybercrime Cell and the individual behind this was traced. As of the writing of this note, we are determining how to proceed with this matter, but we have iron-clad evidence linking this entire misguided campaign to one individual and Mumbai police is assisting us in this.

Also, after carefully going through our internal logs, MouthShut has decided to ban the following members whose IP address matched with the email in question.
Lest anybody is shocked by this (as I was initially), I now realize things like this are not so uncommon. Check this story: Crime never pays, people with criminal outlook may dodge law enforcement for a short period but the long arm of law finds them. More importantly, in the Internet age, you leave your signature on everything and so more reason to remain law-abiding because if it came down to it, everything can be traced. You can't hide if you're playing the fool.

There are far more important lessons for me in all of this than merely the disappointing realization that there are desperate people out there. First, as soon as the malicious email campaign started so many of you wrote me personally encouraging us to never worry about any adverse impact on your loyalty and commitment to MouthShut. It was gratifying and humbling to read these emails and field your phone calls. I learned on my mother's lap the wisdom that it is better to light one candle than curse the darkness - and many of you did just that. You countered a malicious campaign with a message of hope and positive outlook. On a much bigger scale, about a month back we saw Mumbaikars counter the most vicious hatred of terrorists who attacked our peaceful citizens with message of positive outlook. I get goosebumps when I contemplate that God must have destined big and great things for India. Why else would He teach us to hold our heads high in the face of such adversity and hardship and not succumb to the sinister and agenda of sick minds?

Thank you for your courage, tenacity and maturity in not falling for this campaign.

Next, I got to see the Cybercrime cell of Mumbai at closer quarters than I had ever expected to. I must tell you they are impressive! As someone who dabbles in technology a great deal, I am heartened by what I saw in the technical and human capabilities of our law enforcement folks.

In all of this a lot of constructive feedback came to our attention. We try as hard as any organization can to be responsive to its constituencies and yet I know we are far from perfect. There's room for improving things and streamlining processes. I promise you, I am driving a lot of these changes here aggressively and you will see them in the days ahead. Thank you for your feedback. In a few instances we may disagree but I will forever value and cherish the passion with which they are offered.

Lastly, and I hope I can say this without sounding like a grandfather (grandfathers are great, just that I am not ready for that yet): we all need to give ourselves a pat on our backs. We have done well. You have done well. MouthShut has grown beyond anyone's wildest imagination. We have become the portal through which the world comes to learn more about commerce in India, our successful brands and brands that have some work to do. India has started to shine and the rest of the world is looking at us to understand how we do it. It's not just your reviews, it's the way people in India think, our goals, aspirations and hopes, what makes us tick and what ticks us off...our secret sauce (or our secret daal perhaps?) that makes us this great nation. MouthShut is proud to be a small piece of that frontier where India is getting to be recognized and you, dear members, are MouthShut. I see nothing but bigger and greater accomplishments in the days ahead. As for the malicious campaigns and evil eye of some people with poor imagination and too much time on their hands, I conclude with a shayr (two lines of a poem):

Hazar barq giren, laakh aandhiyan aayen
Woh phool khil ke rahenge jo khilne waale thhe

If I had better judgment, I'd leave the translation to someone with better grasp of both Urdu and English, but I will attempt it here anyway since I have a deadline to meet (and with apologies to all of you who could have done a vastly better job):

A thousand lightning strikes or a million raging storms
Couldn't hold back the flowers that have been destined to blossom



In April, 2001, MouthShut pioneered a concept called Dial-the-CEO. It is a unique and most direct way to tell us how MouthShut can serve you even better.

I am pleased to announce that we are now going to hold the fifteenth Dial-the-CEO program on Monday August 14, 2006 during the following hours:

4:30 PM - 6:30 PM India time
7:00 AM - 9:00 AM US EDT
12:00 noon - 2:00 PM British Summer Time

I can be reached at our office in Mumbai at +91-22-2600-6788. I look forward to hearing from you on August 14, 2006


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