Update: Yesterday, we had asked Neeraj Roy about whether Hungama has purchased back Mobhani’s shareholding in the company, given the potential conflict of interest since Airtel is a client for Hungama. Roy had declined comment. We were awaiting a response from Mobhani on the same, but none has been forthcoming, at the time of this update.

Update: There’s no official update from Airtel on Mobhani joining, and his designation; none is expected until Mobhani joins the company.

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Update: According to sources within Hungama, MD & CEO Neeraj Roy has sent out an email explaining Mobhani’s move. We have received an anonymous copy of the said mail, but the veracity of the mail cannot be determined. According to the mail: Mobhani will be joining as “Head of Media and Entertainment Business” for Airtel, and Roy himself will oversee “the day to day operations of our mobile business, of course ably supported by the entire team spread across various cities and divisions.” We’ve contacted Roy, and are awaiting a response. Other sources within Hungama have also confirmed Mobhani’s move.

Original Story: MediaNama has learned from reliable sources that Saleem Mobhani, the COO (Mobile) for Hungama Digital Media, will be joining Bharti Airtel as the CEO Head for Mobile Entertainment. The speculation has been rife about Mobhani’s move to Airtel, and when we had contacted Krish Shankar, Head (HR) for Bharti Airtel, last week, he declined to comment, suggesting that we get in touch with Airtel Corporate Communications. We’re still awaiting a response from Airtel Corpcom on the same. Mobhani was traveling last week, and when we contacted him today, he neither confirmed nor denied the development.

Readers may remember that Bharti Airtel restructured its VAS business into two divisions: Mobile Entertainment and Mobile Commerce in March this year, looking to develop each as a separate revenue streams. They were on the lookout for a CEO of each division, and we have heard of a few senior industry executives who met Airtel for the position. Airtel has also claimed to be the largest music company in India. We did an analysis related to that claim – here.

Mobhani had joined Hungama Digital Media when IndiaFM.com (now called Bollywood Hungama), was acquired by Hungama.

Implications

What’s interesting about this move, is that Mobhani and his team have been responsible for building out the Mobile Entertainment business for Hungama: the deals with content owners like T-Series and Eros key among them, as well as inking distribution deals with telecom operators. Telecom Operators enjoy a position of power in the VAS ecosystem, and it should be interesting to see how things change with someone who’s been on the other side of the fence coming in. Mobhani has intimate knowledge of how content deals are structured across the value chain – as well as the practices, both good and bad, that exist in the VAS ecosystem.

It will also be very interesting to see if Bharti Airtel decides to pursue signing deals with content owners themselves, in the process, bypassing content distributors and digitisers in the value chain, and retaining an even higher revenue share.

Note: We understand that some of our readers in the VAS industry may issues with the managers of VAS at Airtel, but please refrain from making abusive remarks against them. Such comments will be moderated.