So, yesterday I received an email from Mr. Kobold. It talks about the current state and near future of the company. It's lengthy but kind of worth the read. See what you think, and maybe lets discuss...
I hope this email finds you well.
Last week we unveiled a new Kobold watch, the Richard Byrd. It is the first Kobold since the company was deliberately crashed by the same people who stole a substantial part of the company's inventory and critical production components. I am very proud of the new Kobold Richard Byrd, particularly as the late polar explorer’s descendants have given their blessings to this commemorative watch. The first Byrd watches will be in production from September onwards and we will ship the balance by the middle of December. If you are interested in acquiring a Byrd at a friends & family introductory price, please email me directly.
Four years ago, I departed for Nepal to finalize a relatively straightforward project: the fire truck expedition. When I arrived in Nepal, I discovered that the entire country was under a secret economic embargo by neighboring India. While all of the 28 million Nepalese suffered, this blockade was not covered by any news media. When Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Oli tasked me with making the blockade public and getting into the news cycle in the U.S., I had a difficult judgement call to make: to go back and save Kobold, or stay and help Nepal.
I knew that Kobold was in dire straits due to the very long time it took us to get proficient at manufacturing our cases in-house, and also due to the fact that at that time the entire watch industry was undergoing the largest economic crisis in its history. My decision to help Nepal was based on a number of assumptions: that the mission to help Nepal would only add a few months to my original plan, and that in my absence, Kobold’s staff in Pennsylvania would continue to perform their duties in a professional manner.
As you all know, neither assumption was correct: the project in Nepal grew exponentially more complicated and prolonged. Meanwhile, several Kobold staff members actively sabotaged the company.
I accept full responsibility for my decision to stay in Nepal, as well as for the untenable situation at Kobold that came as a result. The company I founded carries my name and I am its only shareholder - I am well aware of the fact that I have failed all of you and the rest of Kobold’s customers. However, if I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would make the same decision again: to help Nepal was the right thing to do. After all, as a result of India’s blockade, an estimated 10,000 people died. As much as we all love our watches, they are, after all, only inanimate objects.
Today, Kobold is reeling from my decision in 2015, as months have turned into years. However, there is a silver lining:
1. My team and I successfully exposed India’s blockade.
2. The blockade was lifted shortly after our public relations campaign began.
3. A few weeks ago, almost four years after the blockade began, India’s senior political leadership for the first time acknowledged that it was behind the blockade.
Moreover, together with a small team, I have slowly been rebuilding the Kobold brand. Our intention is to re-estbalish Kobold at the forefront of the American watch industry. We have a long way to go: although we have made tremendous progress, there are still some people who are waiting for their Kobold watches, both new and repaired. However, we are confident that by the end of this summer, almost all service watches will be shipped back to their respective owners. In addition, we have been filling outstanding orders, albeit at a slower pace, until all old service watches are completed.
As I have previously posted on the Kobold website, once the company is “out of the woods”, we will work hard to make all of this up to you. That means may of you will receive a really special gift. It also means that we will add your names to an internal list of folks for whom we will bend over backwards. If nothing else, I want you to know that you, and every Kobold supporter, is important. Furthermore, I really wish I had never been placed in a situation where I would have to choose between satisfying our customers and helping the people of Nepal.
Kobold is now in its 21st year since its founding, and I am not going to throw away all the years of hard work only because of some headwind. Many of you reading this email have been with the brand since the early beginning, and I am very grateful to you for your ongoing support.
In addition to rebuilding the Kobold brand, we have been working on making the original project that led to the company’s derailment a reality at long last: the fire truck expedition. Below is an email that I sent to the expedition’s 112 team members. I am sharing it with you because I believe it will help you to understand some of the behind-the-scenes goings-on, as well as why our project is of such importance to the people of Nepal and, to a lesser extent, to the integrity of the Kobold brand.
Finally, I would like to sincere thank you for your support - your chiding, admonishment, encouragement and constructive criticism have been so helpful to keep me motivated to bring Kobold back from the brink of extinction.
Dear Friends and Expedition Members,
I write to you with some great news at long last!
Almost four years after I departed for Nepal to get our project underway, we have successfully cleared all of the regulatory, geopolitical and administrative hurdles that stalled the fire tuck expedition, and are now finally going to ship the fire trucks to Nepal. After the trucks arrive, we will conduct the fire truck expedition.
To remind you of the positive nature of our project, please watch this short film with Malcolm McDowell, Nuno Bettencourt and many other supporters of the expedition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9Y74X4W28c
This has been a long-haul campaign and at the end of this email is an overview of what caused the many delays.
In order to raise the funds necessary to ship the trucks, we need everyone’s generosity. I understand that some of you have already come out of pocket. My colleagues and I have worked four long years, faced countless obstacles and still never gave up on the project - we gave a lot more than we initially signed up to, which is why I am now asking you to give more as well.
To generate the funds, we’ve set up a crowdfunding campaign. Please visit www.michaelkobold.com/shop to support our cause.
We expect to ship the fire trucks next month. After that, we will make an announcement as to the dates of the fire truck expedition.
Thank you for your continued support!
Very best wishes,
DELAYS THAT HAVE PLAGUED THE FIRE TRUCK EXPEDITION
1. India’s Blockade of Nepal
Almost three weeks ago, a leading member of the Indian government’s BJP party officially acknowledged for the first time India’s involvement in the 2015/16 blockade of Nepal. This admission is a major breakthrough in our almost four-year-long campaign to expose India’s complicity in the blockade, which caused the worst humanitarian disaster in Nepal’s history - killing an estimated 10,000 people due to hypothermia and acute shortage of medical supplies. India always denied the existence of a blockade, and instead blamed protests on the Nepal side of the border for the supply shortages. My colleagues and I exposed this lie and many other inconsistencies in India’s official narrative, and by request of Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Oli made India’s secret blockade public.
As a result of our publicity campaign, which reached its climax when Fox News extensively broadcasted details about the blockade in several prime time in-depth programs, we caused substantial international embarrassment to the federal government of India. The Indian government prides itself on running the largest democracy on earth, and the Fox News exposes applied sufficient pressure on the Indian government to catalyze ongoing internal discussions about lifting the embargo. Still, even after the blockade ended, and until last week, the Indian government always maintained that their blockade never existed.
Our work to help the people of Nepal in their greatest hour of need had some significant adverse side-effects for our expedition. India’s government retaliated against us by continuing its intervention to quell our plans to bring the fire truck to Nepal. This culminated in a massive, unprecedented smear campaign against me and the fire truck expedition, which began in December of last year - only days ahead of implementing an agreement with the Nepal Tourism Board, which would have lead to the fire trucks finally shipping to Nepal.
We, in turn, retaliated by producing two feature-length documentary films implicating India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in crimes against humanity, both in 2002 in his home state and in 2015/16 in Nepal. Parallel to the production of the documentaries, we released a number of highly embarrassing facts about Modi and the Indian intelligence service, R&AW. We believe that Monday’s announcement was designed to preempt the release of even more damaging information ahead of the films’ release: by acknowledging that India was behind the blockade, both films lose a considerable amount of “punch”.
However, thanks to the Indian official's announcement, our expedition actually wins. First, there can be no more doubt that there was a blockade, which led to the initial delay of the fire truck expedition. Second, with its role in the blockade confirmed by the Indian government, it becomes all the more plausible why India’s embassy in Kathmandu worked so hard to stop the fire truck expedition: the expedition was going generate a great deal of international attention on the subject of the blockade. Now that the blockade has been acknowledged, there is no fear that we could expose anything controversial.
You can watch two previews for documentary films we produced on the blockade and on the man who enacted it, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi:
2. Nepal’s Corrupt Officials
As my colleagues and I found out only as a result of our extended stay in Nepal, most structure fires in this country are the cause of arson. Everyone makes money on the insurance scam, even the insurance company bosses. Hence, there is no desire by the authorities to have truly functioning and efficient firefighting services. Our expedition will highlight this circumstance.
My colleagues and I produced a 90-minute documentary on this subject, titled “Start Digging” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOyOKflNO5s
3. Converging Interests of Nepal’s Corrupt Officials and Indian Embassy Officials
Since early last year, for the first time in its history Nepal has seen a decentralization of power. There are 503 constituencies that now have vastly greater budgets for everything from infrastructure projects to education and health care. Nepal also has anemic or non-existent fire services. This means that India’s Tata Motors Group is set to supply between 500 and 1,000 fire trucks to Nepal in the coming years. For obvious reasons, free, donated American fire trucks are not nearly as palatable to the Indian embassy officials or the corrupt Nepalese officials. This, despite American fire trucks being far superior to their Indian counterparts. As the chief of the Kathmandu Fire Brigade says “Indian fire trucks are milk trucks painted red, not real fire trucks.”
4. Smear Campaign
Last December, shortly before we were supposed to signed an agreement with the Nepal Tourism Board and Maersk Line, our shipping company, to arrange for the shipment, an interlocutor working on behalf of the Indian embassy in Kathmandu instructed Nepal’s largest newspaper, the Kathmandu Post, to conduct a smear campaign against me. This resulted in the greatest such campaign in Nepal’s history - never before has a foreigner been the subject of so many front-page stories. A counter-narrative to the many false allegations and distorted facts is available in a series of articles under the heading “The Nepal Controversies,” which you can find on www.michaelkobold.com. The Kathmandu Post is not only owned by an Indian-born businessman infamous in Nepal as one of the country’s most powerful mafia bosses, the Post’s parent company is also partly owned by the Times of India, which has close ties to the ruling political part of India, the BJP. It is noteworthy that none of the other local news outlets in Nepal, as well as the international media represented in Kathmandu -BBC, AFP and Reuters- reported anything about me or our expedition during the smear campaign.
5. Incompetent Nepal Tourism Board Offcials
The Nepal Tourism Board is infamous within Nepal’s tourism fraternity for being one of the country's most ineffective organizations. As one 5-star-hotel owner told me “we don’t even deal with NTB, it’s best not get involved.” NTB does have a highly competent and enthusiastic CEO, Deepak Joshi, who supports our expedition fully. However, Deepak has actually very little power and is more of a puppet of NTB’s board of directors, which, in turn, is politically divided. While there are several board members who also support our expedition, several other board members have been negatively influenced by powerful people close to the Indian embassy, including a certain lady related to the former ruling family of Nepal. This has meant that NTB is completely gridlocked in its decision-making process with regards to our project. NTB has demonstrably caused the expedition a 2-year-delay. This, despite my colleagues and I producing a number of highly compelling documentary films to promote Nepal tourism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUmyhRf6_pU and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGHVDcnYuWM.