The progress of this MLM company reminds one of the Home Trade scam, where the company spent huge money on advertising and signing mega celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar and Shah Rukh Khan to gain publicity, before duping several people, including the stars
Many agents of SpeakAsia, the self-proclaimed 'biggest online survey company', have posted comments all over the Internet about the company's 'Gen X Bazaar' event being held in Goa from May 9 to 11 and the special train that was booked to take participants for the programme.
Some agents said, and we quote, "In the entire history of India this has NEVER happened - it's spectacular. SpeakAsia arranging a special train for SpeakAsians only is a BIG news." More about the special train and Goa bash later.
The company or its agents-sorry panellists and distributors-are spending huge money on advertising, social gatherings and trying to buy credibility for its dubious MLM scheme. Over the past few weeks, SpeakAsia or its distributors have published half-page ads in leading dailies and run ad films on TV channels, especially during the ongoing IPL cricket matches. So many more people have started searching for information about the company and its online survey scheme.
The company had also issued a public notice some time back. But despite the notice, many other people are also coming together on the Internet, forming groups and forums to prevent the MLM scheme from spreading further.
Following letters from Moneylife to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on the issue, the central bank is said to had discussed it and is contemplating action against the MLM company, according to our sources.
Now to the special train and the Goa bash. There is no doubt that booking a special train for a big bash at a beach resort in Goa was done to attract more eyeballs and so hook more gullible people who might choose to join the MLM scheme. For one, booking a special train is not a big deal and can be done by any one who has the money to pay for it. The Indian Railways charges Rs9 lakh as a minimum registration-cum-security amount and the booking must be done 30 days before the date the train is required.
Also, a special train is nothing so special, as people in and around Mumbai are aware. Every year, hundreds of thousands of of people travel by special trains to Mumbai, to pay tribute to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on 6th December. (About 200,000 people visited Chaityabhoomi, the memorial site, on 6 December 2010.)
Some SpeakAsia agents have been gung-ho about the cheap fare by the special train. On the contrary, we learn that each agent had to pay $170 for a ticket in the three-tier AC and they were required to pay from their e-wallet accounts, for which the currency conversion rate is Rs50 a dollar. This means the agents paid Rs8,500 or equivalent for the journey by the special train as against the scheduled fare of about Rs1,450.
Some agents said that the $170 included ticket charges and meals. However, even if one were to take into account the ticket fare from Delhi to Goa and back along with meals, the charge should not have been more than Rs5,000 per person. So, the agents paid at least Rs3,500 of their hard-earned money over and above the actual charges from their e-wallet. This excludes the cost of accommodation.
Now about the event. As SpeakAsia often said, it was a Gen X Bazaar, where people (its agents) would come together to shop products from companies like Levis, IFB, Maruti, Skoda, etc. As is the practise with many manufacturers and service providers, they offer additional discounts for a group. (Check some group buying sites) The same logic applies to the Goa bazaar as well and there was nothing special for the agents.
How the agents would carry the products they bought, back home, is a different story. Except for the Levis jeans (that they could wear or carry in their bags) and automobiles (they would have to drive back in the vehicle and forget the special train ride back), all other products would have to be transported and this would cost more money. (Try offering money from an e-wallet to the 'truckwallah' or any local goods carrier.) In addition, the goods purchased at a discount at the bazaar would likely attract local levies, like octroi, that would have to be paid in real currency.
Some agents were very excited about the entertainment programmes in the evenings. According to the information obtained from some blogs, Bollywood actor Rani Mukherjee and Neha Dhupia and performers like Mika Singh and Abhijeet Sawant were there to entertain the agents. All the names mentioned are commercial artists who do entertainment shows anywhere and everywhere for a fee. Here again, nothing special.
A gathering of people under the pretext of a seminar or a bazaar is not unusual, especially in MLM circles. In fact, all multi-level marketing (MLM) companies have such gatherings at posh locations regularly to keep their flock intact and growing. Remember, how JapanLIFE and GoldQuest or QuestNet used to invite people to functions at five-star hotels?
Just for reference, a few years ago, Home Trade endorsed mega celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar, Hrithik Roshan and Shah Rukh Khan to cover up its meticulously planned financial scam. (Read, Home Trade's 'starry' gameplan.)
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Special report on SpeakAsia by Star News
(Courtesy: Star News)