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A chain's weak links: Is Speak Asia unravelling?

We were always hot on its trail

Like all pyramid-marketing schemes, Speak Asia also flew below the radar until the number of panellists and their fat earnings caused a steady buzz. Moneylife decided to investigate when several readers posted queries on our website asking if the scheme was safe and above board. After all, Moneylife had exposed schemes like Gold Quest and the Orissa bank deposit scheme in the past. We discovered that Speak Asia had Indian promoters, but was registered in Singapore by the name Haren Technology Pte Ltd. Earlier, it claimed that there was no legal presence in India; our investigations have gradually discovered otherwise.

The scheme: Speak Asia requires people to enrol as ‘panellists’ by depositing Rs11,000 per identity for the job of filling out ‘surveys’ which it claims to conduct on behalf of client companies. Each identity is entitled to receive up to two surveys per week fetching a compensation of Rs500 each. However, the real moolah comes from enrolling new panellists in a binary scheme. This fetches a further Rs1,000 per new recruitment to Speak Asia.

The completion of a right and left leg recruitment entails a further commission of Rs1,000. In effect, an aggressive panellist could earn a return of over 500%. Since all the early panellists received the promised payout, word spread like wildfire and, by 16th May, when the company held its first press conference in Mumbai, it claimed a whopping 1.9 million panellists with plans to increase the number to 10 million by the end of 2011. Of course, the growth had slowed down dramatically after the media exposed its inability to answer basic queries as well as its many falsehoods. Here are some examples:

It claimed to conduct surveys for companies such as ICICI Bank, Bharti Airtel, Nestlé and Bata. All of them denied any association with Speak Asia and the company admitted as much at its press conference. Worse, it couldn’t name a single client and hid the fact by asking journalists to sign a confidentiality agreement. In fact, a genuine company would have boasted about its blue-chip clients.

While ING Vysya and ICICI Bank were supposed to be its bankers, both denied holding its accounts. Moneylife has since unearthed that the accounts were held in the two banks by companies such as Speak India, Speak India Online, Kritanj Management Services, Star Enterprises and Tulsiyat Tek Pvt Ltd. Sources say that there are dozens of other entities which have collected money paid by panellists, each reporting a multitude of businesses to the banks, to explain their source of funds. They include mobile services, intellectual property, agency fees, etc. Income-Tax Department sources say these entities have accounts in several banks including Allahabad Bank, Citibank, Yes Bank, HDFC Bank, State Bank of India, Axis Bank, etc, which have remitted the funds to core accounts for transmission abroad. The money, in turn, was transferred to Haren Ventures Pte Ltd of Singapore. We learn that over Rs500 crore has already been sent out of the country so far.

An interesting bombshell at its 16th May press conference was Speak Asia’s claim that panellists do not pay for filling out surveys, but for an annual subscription to an e-magazine that nobody seems to have seen. Moneylife later learnt that the company had to make this claim, because the entities that transferred funds to Singapore had claimed to be distributors for the e-magazine and were repatriating subscriptions. Banks were also told that the money was being paid for ‘survey software’. Again, Moneylife found that Haren Ventures has not developed any special ‘survey software’ which is used by Speak Asia. In fact, they used a free online site called www.surveymonkey.com and recently bought Novi Survey.

Singapore-based Speak Asia online Pte Ltd was previously known as Haren Technology Pte Ltd and is owned by one Harender Kaur. The company has been in trouble for not submitting accounts. While Speak Asia claims to be in existence since 2006, the website was actually launched only on 21 January 2010.

The company had hired two advertising and PR agencies. Aurum Media is still holding on to the Speak Asia account, but Lintas Lowe has resigned. Apart from a high-profile beach bash at Goa for its panellists, Speak Asia also released television commercials during IPL (Indian Premier League) matches and issued advertisements in leading print publications.

It continues to quietly announce plans to get into a slew of new businesses including a TV channel and providing feedback on advertisements. However, the fact is that none of these pay the kind of money that Speak Asia has been dishing out. The money (reward points, as they like to call it) earned by panellists goes into an electronic account which is drawn down at their convenience. Ever since it has been subject to investigation by the Income-Tax Department and others, Speak Asia has been telling panellists that they can redeem their earnings for buying books, products or services from them instead of cash.

User

COMMENTS

nikky

6 years ago

speak asia should not be closed,it should b carry on.
and panelists should provide there income, as its there RIGHT.

REPLY

A raja

In Reply to nikky 6 years ago

I agree. I would call it idiot-right .

nitin

6 years ago

Government was sleeping ??
that they claim this when many of Indians made there investments.
Now what happen with those panelists?
would they got there money..
I think Gov. should take decision by keeping investments made by Indians in mind.

REPLY

Naveen

In Reply to nitin 6 years ago

Govt has better jobs to do. It cant waste its time for foolish acts of idiots. It was 100% clear from the scheme that it was fraud. Some intelligent fools got in fully knowing that its a fraud. but they thought that they wud get out before it sinks....bad luck ....dnt blame the govt for foolish and greedious acts of people

Kaisan

6 years ago

Thanks Money Life magazine for constanly updating the readers abt the fraud company speak asia.

vaibhav

6 years ago

all know the fact but the question is what our government do to solve the matter?we know how speakasia tells lies to improve their business.if they success,intelligent people will get the wrong message and start to believe in wrong things and there is also a matter of money of 20lakh panalist.i also believe that most of the panalists also know the fact when they join.

rr

6 years ago

Dear Ms. Sucheta Dalal,

Half knowledge is a dangerous thing.
I have read your article & like to answers all your baseless allegations on great company like speak asia.

1. We sell E-zine (a survey magazine of speak asia) it is clear on website from day one.

2. Novi Survey is a paid service to speak asia. speak asia has invested crores of rupees in IT & Survey Development.


3. ING Vasya is our banker (see the link) http://assets.speakasiaonline.com/images...

4. survey is a confidential activity & it is done with NDA (non disclosure agreement) with our client. speak asia has submitted its client list to Mumbai High Court.

5. The non compliance from ACRA Singapore is a normal issue. u may not know that Star TV is also a non complaint company in Singapore.
It is very very normal thing. But speak asia is going to rectify it.

6. New Site launched in 2010 with a new server so it shows 2010. but speak asia has been working since 2006.

Now you answer my question Ms. Sucheta Dalal.

1. Why speak asia is offering Exit Option (money back) to its panelist if it is not honest.

2. Your foolish magazine " money life" was only read by your employees. U want publicity & money from advt. by talking negative about speak asia.

So please stop making fool to the public, we are much more smarter than u.

Sincerely,

Rohit
New Delhi

REPLY

rishi

In Reply to rr 6 years ago

f**k ur exit option........it is denying payment,claiming that rbi has stopped it from doing so....

am

In Reply to rr 6 years ago

Either you are employee of speakasia or you have put in lot of money. either may be the case you are going down dude.

Sudhir

In Reply to rr 6 years ago

If Sucheta needs more info, pls keep posting your idot posts, we shall regularly update you.

rohit

In Reply to Sudhir 6 years ago

ha ha.......i can't stop laughing at money life.....really read only by its eployee.....
so much of hype and wat u got..nothing.
of course we put lot of money in speak asia.....and it was because.....we believe them..how much people believe you....

enjoy moneylife..

Neeraj

In Reply to rohit 6 years ago

Atl east they are making an honest wage..Anyways I read Money Life and I am not an employee...And you Mr. Rohit You are also reading it and you are also not an employee..

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