MTN is embroiled in a R1,2 billion claim by a Soweto-based company Biza Telecoms for allegedly stealing the company’s social media network service called Chomi, to launch a popular Ayoba app.
The Sunday World reported that Biza Telecoms’ management met the then MTN Group chief commercial officer Pieter Verkade in May 2015 to present in “great detail” its Chomi concept.
In paper lodged at the Johannesburg high court, seen by Sunday World, Biza Telecoms claims that Chomi could be used on all mobile devices with 14 language options and cross communications between smartphone and feature phones.
Biza Telecoms alleges that Verkade expressed interest in the Chomi app.
But two months after the presentation, MTN informed the Soweto-based company it could not proceed with the partnership.
BIza Telecoms told Sunday World that it was surprised IN May 2019 that MTN launched Ayoba, an app that the Soweto-based firm alleges offers the same service as their app Chomi.
In a written response to the Sunday World, MTN said it was a responsible corporate citizen and upholds good and proper corporate governance and takes the allegations “very seriously”.
“Ayoba was developed by MTN in 2018 and product developments were led by David Gilarranza, who was previous head of digital at MTN, having joined the company from Millicom in 2018,” MTN told the newspaper.
“We have engaged with Biza Telecoms and have requested further information to substantiate and provide further details of its claims to enable us to investigate further. Biza Telecoms has not responded to the request.”
Sunday World said the CEO of Biza Telecoms, Seati Moloi, could not be drawn to comment on the matter.
For more read: MTN faces R1.2 billion claim from Biza for Ayoba app
In March, MTN disclosed that its instant messaging platform, Ayoba, has reached 5.5 million monthly active users as of December 2020.
Ayoba is an advanced communications application localised for African and Middle East consumer needs, under an independent Over the Top (OTT) brand with unique features for MTN customers.
The mobile phone company said Ayoba has now been integrated into 16 MTN markets and can be downloaded across many other markets on the Google Play Store, Apple App Store, and via the Ayoba website as an OTT offering.
What is Chomi app?