After one of its legal advisors reportedly quit, Speak Asia's PR agency LinOpinion, has also decided to stay away from the controversial MLM company
Speak Asia, the controversial online survey company, is facing rough weather these days. Following reports about senior advocate Ashok Saraogi quitting as one of its legal advisors, here comes other news. LinOpinion Public Relations, a division of Lowe Lintas group is no longer handling the Speak Asia account.
Lowe Lintas, one of India's top communication groups is a unit of Interpublic Group (IPG), and is part of the Lowe Worldwide network. The PR agency had won the full service business for Speak Asia online just three months ago.
Last month, several banks froze accounts of Speak Asia's distributors...sorry, technically, they all are distributors of Haren Ventures Pte Ltd, while Singapore-based United Overseas Bank closed accounts of Speak Asia online Pte Ltd. Following this, the MLM company has stopped paying its agents and accepting cash transfer requests as well, according to some panellists who do not want to reveal their names. They said the company continued sending some surveys and deposited reward points in the agent's e-wallet on its website. But the reward points cannot be encashed, unless the company accounts are unfrozen. Nevertheless, by its own admission, Speak Asia's chief executive Harender Kaur said in an e-mail to agents that the process to open an account in another bank in Singapore would take six to eight weeks and it could not pay money to anyone till that time.
The multi-level marketing (MLM) company that used to claim and advertise as "Asia's largest Online Survey Company" has changed its mind and tagline, and now describes itself on its website as "Asia's Largest Community of Sovereign Consumers".
Speak Asia also appears to be communicating with its panellists through the Moneylife website in the guise of a member. An email posted as a comment says,
"Few figures for you which shows how SPEAK ASIA is taking care of us:
Present Balance in UOB a/c of SA: 482 million dollars
(Sufficient funds to pay survey income to all the existing panelist for the next two years)
Now company has to withdraw funds from UOB as per the decision of UOB bank (Not abide by RBI, Govt. of India or Singapore its UOB's own decision as they are confused b'coz of media).
So company is taking following decision:
Escrow a/c*: 200 million dollars
a/c with new bank: 300 million dollars
But to process the pending request it will take some time so the company is trying to establish a temporary arrangement on priority basis for the newly associated 4 lakh panelists so that they don't get panic.
For SA upcoming ambitious project i.e. e-shoppe SA is already having 10 million dollars in advance from different prestigious brands.
Another fantastic news any time in the coming months SA in association with a UK based company can go for a 2G spectrum licence and launch our own Mobile network.
In context to ad based survey SA has already captured approx. 10% of the market share from advertisement in the TV channels all over India.
From Monday onwards their will be SMS blast by company to make us aware about new updates and news.
We had made a claim of Rs.3320.00 crores to all those who tried to defame us.
All staff of company will not withdraw their 2 month salary to support company at this crucial time.
2ND june 2011 talkatora stadium delhi booked for 2 seasons meeting of ticket 200/- only. (morning & evening 4000 speak asians each seasons) for tickets call priyal sir & myself.
(Three cheers for them)
Its really a good news to cheer.
Moneylife emailed it to top officials who gave us their visiting cards at the press conference on 16 May 2011. However, our messages sent, especially to Manoj Kumar, the company chief executive for India, bounced. Our mails to Mr Kumar have bounced many times in the past as well.
This (the bounced mails) further reveals, that the so-called biggest survey company, with over 19 lakh agents, does not even have its own e-mail server. Instead, all its officials use a paid e-mail service from Rediffmail Pro that is available for as low as Rs1,199 a year for five e-mail IDs.
Last month, advocate Saraogi called a press conference in Mumbai, barely after five days after Speak Asia's first media interface. Speaking at the press conference, Mr Saraogi said, "The company (Speak Asia) is not selling any surveys to panellists, but e-zines to its subscribers. Surveys are offered as additional benefit and can be withdrawn any time if the company's contract with clients comes to an end."
The senior lawyer also claimed that Speak Asia is selling its magazine over the Internet, which is allowed under the existing law in India and the company is in the publications business. Although Mr Saraogi said that he was a legal advisor for Speak Asia, not a single official from the company was present at the press conference.
We learn from our investigations and Speak Asia officials have also confirmed that the company is not registered in India and does not have any establishment or office in the country.
According to a PTI report, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) said it could not investigate the Singapore-based multi-level marketing (MLM) company as it is not registered in India. "Speak Asia is not registered in India so we cannot do any investigation against it. MCA does not have any database of the company," corporate affairs secretary DK Mittal told reporters in New Delhi. He also said that Speak Asia has not applied for registration with the ministry, PTI reported.
However, on Wednesday, Manoj Kumar, Speak Asia's chief executive, told reporters in Delhi that the company is in the process of seeking approval from the Registrar of Companies, the Reserve Bank of India and the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. This is in contrast with the company's stand throughout past several months that it does not require any kind of permission, registration or licence from any Indian authority.
Since the company does not have any office in India, it is difficult to start proceedings against it, in case somebody wants to file a case. It becomes difficult to file a case in any police station as the company does not have any address in India and hence the police might refuse to lodge a complaint. According to Mr Saraogi, in such cases one can file a case from whatever location he or she is present and has accessed the website. Police can register a complaint based on the IP address location, he said.
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MF Husain, India’s most prolific and controversial artist, leaves behind a great body of work whose value will jump manifold with his passing away
The nation and the art world are yet to come to terms with the death of India's most prolific and controversial artist, MF Husain. One of the best-selling Indian artists, Husain proved that Indian art could command the same prestige and value as that by Western contemporaries. Dedicated Husain collectors will mourn the passing away of a legend, but his works are doubly precious now.
"Husain's paintings always commanded substantial value, but now, when no new paintings will be added to the collection, the paintings will be more valuable. Not only are his paintings great works of art, but they are a sound investment," said Rajan Jayakar, eminent collector and advocate.
Husain was one of the few painters who churned out works at a rapid pace; yet the volume never diminished the value of his creations. It is no mean achievement that the man, who painted film hoardings for a livelihood early on in life, was described by none other than Forbes magazine as the "Pablo Picasso of India".
His platinum locks, sage-like looks and the brush that he carried always like a king's sceptre, increased the enigma. His aura and his bold, sharp, cubism-inspired style added value to his works and cemented his position as one of the stalwarts in India's artistic canon.
People who own Husain's works may now be left with something that is more precious. Apart from private collectors, many industrial houses like the Tatas, Godrej and Birla Academy in Kolkata are home to a number of his creations.
Husain used to gift away a lot of paintings to his friends. Amitabh Bachchan tweeted that Husain had painted two works for him personally, one of them during the filming of Coolie, when Bachchan was hospitalised. Celebrities like Shobhaa De and Pritish Nandy own quite a few of his creations.
While some people may be apprehensive about the value of controversial paintings, Mr Jayakar thinks these paintings will emerge as the most valuable ones. "Art is like movies, more controversy means more money. But, more importantly, rarer pieces are more precious," he said. "The controversial paintings are few in number, and so their value will appreciate far more than his other creations."
"The more precious a thing is, the more the reluctance to part with it," said Udit Chaudhuri, art connoisseur and son of famous sculptor Sankho Chaudhuri. "I don't think there will be an immediate jump which we see in share markets when something happens. The value of art depends on demand, but with Husain, we can expect substantial appreciation." A prominent art dealer estimated that it is possible that his paintings may appreciate as much as two and a half times in value after his death.
Union minister for corporate affairs Murli Deora was one of Husain's close friends, and owns many of his paintings. Surprisingly, despite the value of these works (even prior to the artist's death), Mr Deora has declared that his assets are worth only Rs62 lakh!
Husain's approach was completely different from the dominant Bengali school, but it established a place for Indian art in the international canvas. The painting 'Battle of Ganga and Yamuna: Mahabharata 12' created a record in 2008, when it sold for $1.6 million at an auction. Recently, three of his paintings were auctioned at Rs2.32 crore, and an unnamed oil painting was priced at Rs1.23 crore.
Along the way, Husain won accolades and collected several national and international awards, including the Padma Shree and a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his 1967 film Through the Eyes of a Painter. He went on to direct two more Hindi films, and painted actresses like Amrita Rao, Anushka Sharma and most famously, Madhuri Dixit.
Yet, his nude paintings of Hindu Godesses resulted in a saffron uproar, and he went on a self-imposed exile. He got citizenship in Qatar, and frequented London. He often expressed his longing to come back, and declared his faith in Indian democracy, while emphasising that he had "never betrayed India".
Following the notification, general insurers would now have to file the draft agreement of the proposed merger with IRDA and also the respective balance sheet while seeking approval from the regulator
New Delhi: The Insurance Regulatory Authority of India (IRDA) has notified the merger and acquisition (M&A) guidelines for general insurance companies thereby paving way for consolidation in the sector, reports PTI.
The regulation-Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Scheme of Amalgamation and Transfer of General Insurance Business) Regulations, 2011-would apply to all private general insurance companies with immediate effect.
With more than 10 years after opening up of the insurance sector, the regulations would pave way for M&As between 20 private sector players, most of who have foreign investment that is capped at 26%.
Following this, the general insurers would now have to file the draft agreement of the proposed merger with IRDA and also the respective balance sheet while seeking approval from the regulator.
The regulator has retained with itself the power to vet the valuations arrived at by the companies involved in M&As, saying that the authority would carry out an independent valuation of the insurance business of the transacting parties to arrive at the valuation.
In order to safeguard policyholders' interest, IRDA has mandated the insurers to inform their respective customers about the deal, it said.
Besides IRDA, an acquirer would need to have approvals from the Reserve Bank of India and the finance ministry, in case it has foreign direct investment. It also needs to have clearance of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
According to industry players, most of the private sector general insurance companies require fresh infusion of capital which may come from foreign partners, who have been constrained by the FDI cap. The Bill to raise the FDI ceiling is pending in Parliament.
The general insurance business has remained loss making for want of capital, which is constrained due cap on foreign capital infusion.
Till now, the Insurance Act provided for the M&As only for life insurance companies.