Mobile messaging company ValueFirst has launched, an online reverse bidding auction site that allows users to place free virtual bids on items like mobile recharges, digital photo frames, pen drives, mp3 players, laptops, digital cameras, mobile phones, watches and others. Users can register on the site and place unlimited bids, free of charge, and the most unique among the lowest of bids wins the item after the auction is closed. The company also offers free shipping for that item to the winner.

Users can register by providing details like their e-mail ID, mobile number, date of birth, and city, or sign-in via their Facebook or Twitter credentials. ValueFirst informs that the site will allow the company to grow its opt-in user base, which can be monetized via targeted advertising by agencies and brands, according to a report by TechCircle.

In an interaction with MediaNama, Vishwadeep Bajaj, CEO of ValueFirst, informed that the company wants to increase its advertising inventory, and that it intends to expand and grow its opted-in communities through launch of new and differentiated properties. He said that the company will launch more new verticalised properties and Internet and Mobile.

He confirmed that will be completely free for consumers and that its business model relies on monetisation through advertising. “Our multi-modal digital communication platform allows for monetisation through display marketing, email marketing, voice marketing and SMS marketing,” he said. The company does not have tie-ups with brands, at the moment.

Reverse auctions are nothing new and Times Internet had been offering a web+SMS service by the name of Kambola, which worked in a similar manner. Cellcast’s popular TV show, Bid2Win, was also based on the same concept. These services usually monetise via premium SMS and calls (rather bulk of it) or advertising or when users pay to place bids.

ValueFirst had earlier acquired messaging company Way2Online. It had raised $15M From Headland Asia Ventures, NEA in February 2011, and prior to that, $6 million from NEA in 2008. Earlier this year, the company shelved its IPO plans and said it was looking to raise around $50 million. It has tried to re-position itself as a “digital media” company (it’s a bit of a stretch, this), from an enterprise messaging company.

The company courted controversy after it reportedly fired its CEO, Kumar Apurva, and filed an FIR against him, his wife and two directors of Way2SMS, alleging that Apurva had made the board of directors of ValueFirst agree to take over Way2SMS for Rs 150 crore, and that Way2SMS transfered Rs 7 crore in three installments to Kumar’s bank account, hence indicating a personal profit.

ValueFirst’s Acquisitions

Jun 2012: ValueFirst acquires IndyaRocks and mGinger.
May 2012: Acquired Way2SMS, a person to person (p2p) online messaging portal for an undisclosed amount in a cash deal.
May 2010: Invested in online social network IndyaRocks
Apr 2010: Acquired SMS Social Network for an undisclosed amount.
Mar 2010: Acquired majority stake in PacketShaper, a telecom products company, for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition brought in capability to do mobile applications, as well as products for Switching, Dialers, IVR, Calling Cards and IP-PBX etc
Oct 2009: Acquired Escorts Group’s VAS Firm CellNext for an undisclosed sum. CellNext operations have been integrated with Valuefirst, and it brought in M-Commerce and Voice application capability.