Info-tech

Trouble brews for Obi Mobiles, company ‘founded’ by former Apple CEO John Sculley

Rajesh Kurup Mumbai | Updated on January 10, 2018

John Sculley, former Apple CEO   -  Kamal Narang

Firm says it’s in midst of restructuring, even as Sculley dissociates with it

As the world eagerly welcomed the 10th anniversary iPhones, trouble has started brewing for Obi Mobiles. While earlier, the handset company had said it was co-founded by former Apple Chief Executive Officer John Sculley, now Sculley has distanced himself from the company saying his name was used only for public relations.

“Obi Mobiles had used John Sculley’s name for the company’s PR purposes. He was not involved with the company as an investor or in any strategic position,” Sculley’s wife Diane told BusinessLine over phone from the couple’s Florida home in the US. She, however, did not reveal when Sculley disassociated with the firm.

Sculley, who is known for the controversial ouster of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and was later forced out of the company in 1993, was named co-founder of Obi Mobiles when it was launched in 2014.

Apart from Sculley, Indian serial entrepreneur Neeraj Chauhan and entrepreneurs Shane Maine and Gordon McMillan were the other co-founders.

When contacted, Chauhan said in an e-mail reply: “I am no longer associated with Obi Mobiles, hence I am not in a position to comment on your queries.” While Maine did not reply to emails, McMillan could not be immediately contacted.

Further, the company is believed to have shut down its operations in Dubai. According to documents reviewed by BusinessLine, Obi Mobiles’ Dubai operations is yet to renew its commercial licence in the country. In Dubai, it had two companies — Obi Connect FZE (a firm trading in mobilephones) and Obi Worldwide (holding company).

Separately, according to legal documents filed with Singapore High Court, Dragon Technology Distribution Pte Ltd, a distributor of Obi Mobiles, had filed for bankruptcy and wound up operations as early as October last year.

Chauhan was partner and Managing Director of both Dragon Technology and Obi Mobiles, while Shane Maine was a Director with Dragon Technology (which had a turnover of $700 million in 2014) and Obi Mobiles.

‘Fresh funding’

When contacted, a company spokesperson in India denied that the company was closing down operations here. “Obi is in the middle of a restructuring and consolidation process. There are markets that we have exited for business viability reasons, while there are newer opportunities that are being considered. Obi is indeed in constant touch with its Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) partners for newer models, but the details are confidential in nature and no brand would like to share their product road maps in advance.

“We are also actively engaged with potential investors for another round of (fund) raise, but presently, we are unable to share more details as we are governed by mutual non-disclosure agreements. As a privately held organisation, we refrain to comment on the conjectures around the company or other group companies.”

Published on September 18, 2017

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