Fairness Miracle Or Fraud In A Bottle? : BOOM Investigates Part II
( In Part I of Fairness Miracle Or Fraud In A Bottle? we revealed how fake ads are used to market a product called Radyance Skin Brightening Complex. Several complaints by customers included allegations of Radyance pretending to be a U.S.-based company while its manufacturing facilities and call centre were based in India. In Part II we fact check the allegations and uncover how an obscure ad led us to an elaborate maze.)
THE LONG CON
We decided to order Radyance Skin Brightening Complex using an alias ‘Sneha A’.
A text message from Radyance’s ‘Neha’ confirmed the order through an automated number .
A day later, a second text informed us we would be receiving a free gift, a new product that was launching soon.
The product was delivered by Blue Dart within three days. The invoice also listed Delhivery’s number. We contacted both courier service companies who confirmed Radyance was one of their clients.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
The package contained an unsealed 30 ml. black bottle of Rayance Skin Brightening Complex, a pale beige cream that smelt like any other moisturizer and a bright green gel of Radyance face wash, the free gift that was promised. The two products had different manufacturers.
A day after the product was delivered, we got another text from Neha saying we had accidentally ordered the ‘Night Complex’ without ordering the ‘Day Elixir’, but because we were one of Radyance’s “favourite customers”, they went ahead and ordered the Day Elixir costing Rs. 1170 for us.
BOOM was able to cancel the order through Blue Dart but other Radyance customers had no such luck.
Despite emails and text messages, there is no tangible proof that Neha Gupta, Customer Success Manager at Radyance, actually exists.
FAKE U.S. CALL CENTRE
Each time we tried calling Radyance’s call centre number (+1 310 272-5089) listed on the package, the call went unanswered.
Though we would get a call soon after from another U.S. number +1 646 350 2163.
Radyance’s customer care executive “Rahul” claimed to call from California.
However, truecaller identified the number as ‘Slim now’ in New York. Rahul declined to tell us who owned Radyance or the whereabouts of his office.
TRACKING THE MANUFACTURERS
Two out of the three contract manufacturers we contacted said they had stopped making the product sometime last year.
Inocos Herbal Industries in Delhi and Indus Cosmeceuticals in Shimla told BOOM they had stopped producing Radyance’s product in November and July 2016 respectively after the company abruptly stopped placing orders.
The proprietor of Inocos Herbal gave us the numbers of one Ashok Nautiyal and a man named Gaurav he had been in touch with from Radyance.
Only one manufacturer, Blue Star Cosmetics in Bawana, New Delhi confirmed that it had recently begun manufacturing Radyance’s new face wash and gave us contact details of one Ashok Nautiyal they had been dealing with.
While Radyance’s nexus is confusing it is worthy to note that two manufacturers named Ashok Nautiyal.
WHO IS ASHOK NAUTIYAL
An online search for Ashok Nautiyal threw up a LinkedIn profile that said he worked as a procurement manager at Geek Retail, the company that markets Radyance. The details have been deleted from Nautiyal’s current profile.
When BOOM contacted Nautiyal, he denied knowing Radyance at first but later admitted to working with the company up until two months ago.
Not only did his story keep changing, he tried to justify the fake ads saying products like Fair & Lovely promise fairer skin in just seven days.
In a phone recording that BOOM possesses, Nautiyal dodged questions about who owns Geek Retail and Radyance but promised to get Radyance’s call centre to speak to us.
WHO IS GAURAV NAUTIYAL?
Shortly after our phone conversation with Ashok Nautiyal we received a call in the same day from Rahul Radyance’s call centre representative.
Unable to answer our questions Rahul transferred the call to his colleague Gaurav.
Gaurav claimed the company’s call centre in California was set up to service requests in India, incidentally the only market Radyance sold its products in.
Radyance had been in business for seven to eight years and had one more unit in Jaipur, he said.
Gaurav refused to disclose his full name and declined to tell us who he worked for.
But what Gaurav did not know is that we already had his Indian cell phone number from one of Radyance’s manufacturers Inocos Herbal.
Truecaller identified Gaurav’s number (7500258134) as Gaurav Nautiyal.
A Facebook search with the cellphone number led us to his online profile where Ashok Nautiyal is listed as a friend.
Based on their Facebook profiles both Ashok Nautiyal and Gaurav Nautiyal have links to Dehradun, Gaurav Nautiyal seems to be currently working in Delhi.
Both men appear to be small players in a larger operation.
So far everything related to Radyance had an element of deception and so we turned our attention to the company marketing the product, Geek Retail Private Ltd.
THE TRAIL GETS HOTTER
Geek Retail Private Ltd, calls itself a retail distribution company based in Panchkula-Haryana.
The company lists Radyance along with ‘Slim Now Natural Power Cleanse’ capsules and other products on its site.
The same Slim Now that truecaller identified when Radyance’s call centre employee called back.
Geek Retail did not respond to a message sent by BOOM, on its website.
AGAM BERRY: THE BRAINS BEHIND GEEK RETAIL AND RADYANCE
Geek Retail Private Limited’s website has no mention of its management but a few details about the company are public on Tofler, a business research platform.
The company was incorporated in Feb 2009 and was earlier known as Berry Communications Private Limited, according to Tofler.
In posts going back to 2015, BOOM found six complaints about Berry Communications with regards to Radyance Skin Brightening Complex thus establishing a link between Geek Retail and Berry Communications.
Two of Geek Retail’s directors are listed as Agam Berry and Anita Berry on Tofler.
While we didn’t find anything incriminating on Anita Berry, a search for Agam Berry revealed he was the CEO of Berry Communications in addition to being the co founder of Hiringz.
WHO IS AGAM BERRY?
Berry Comm’s website has no mention of Geek Retail but gives a fascinating insight into its founder Agam Berry.
29-year old Berry founded the internet advertising company Berry Communications in 2004 after several other websites he founded attracted over a million unique visitors a day. He has an ’empire’ of over 450 websites, according to the site.
His skill set include internet advertising, web design, Photoshop and search engine (SEO) marketing aside from holding a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Panjab University.
An online search for Berry led us to Ripoff Report, a consumer protection website in the U.S.
Two individuals have posted scathing posts about Berry including one which alleges he took $25,000 from a client promising SEO development services which he never delivered.
A second individual on Ripoff Report alleged that the internet marketing fraternity claimed seeing Berry in India, New York City and Hong Kong.
BOOM has not independently verified the allegations
We found two LinkedIn profiles, three Facebook profiles and at least seven websites that directly link to him. (agamberry.biz ,agamberry.net, agamberry.us, berrycorp.com, berrycorp.biz, imagespay.com)
In one of his many blogs on internet advertising, Berry seemed to be building a brand around himself with posts such as ‘Negotiation Skills As Taught By Agam Berry’. and Three Email Marketing Essentials Agam Berry Uses To Increase Conversions.
Based on his last social media posts, Berry claims to be in New York but when we tried calling his New York number we got Vodafone’s recorded message in English and Hindi of the number being busy.
It is hard to tell if Berry is an entrepreneurial genius who gets bored easily and moves from one venture to another or if there’s more to him that meets the eye. So far everything he has been associated with seems opaque, abandoned mid way and does not add up.
Emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for the sake of this story went unanswered. Efforts to Tweet to him did not yield a response. Neither his Indian nor American contact numbers we managed to cull from various sites, work.
(Additional reporting by Jency Jacob)