SpeakAsia still can’t show valid, legal documents

SpeakAsia, is an online company collecting large sums of money by rapidly enrolling people with the promise of incredible payments for simply filling out online surveys. Our investigation, however, shows that the company is not registered in India and it cannot show us any legal documentation. Our efforts to get answers through its newly-appointed PR agency led to a threatening call from an agent of SpeakAsia. The company hopes to register one crore agents by the year-end

SpeakAsia (SpeakAsiaonline.com) an online survey company that uses multi-level marketing (MLM) to spread its wings across the country, does not appear to have any legal roots in India. Moneylife has been taking an interest in SpeakAsiaonline.com because its members and agents repeatedly ambush our comments section to hard sell the scheme, claiming to have earned large sums of money by filling out surveys. Consequently, our readers have frequently inquired whether SpeakAsiaonline.com is legitimate and if it will indeed cough up the high returns it promises.

When the company hired LinOpinion Public Relations, a leading PR agency, to handle its communications last week, we took the opportunity to send a list of queries, which were answered by Vivek Gautam, its chief marketing officer (CMO). While the company provided long answers to our questions (reproduced below), it has still not shown us any documentation that it is legally registered in India, or answered whether it requires regulatory clearance from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or any other body.

Mr Gautam also sidestepped our question on the company's promoters. In addition, although it claims to be Asia's largest online survey company, it neither provide names of its top management nor addresses or contact details of its offices across the region, except in Singapore. (Read, "Another MLM scam in the happening, this time under the pretext of an online survey"). Moneylife has written to RBI deputy governor, Dr KC Chakrabarty, asking about the company and are awaiting a response.

Here are the responses from Vivek Gautam, of SpeakAsiaonline.com, to questions from Moneylife.

Q1. We have written in the past and even today, we could not find any valid or legal document that shows SpeakAsia as a registered entity in India. Can you tell us about the company's registration?
Ans: The company has a unique business model internationally. The business in a given country is supported by the factoral organisation, in India:
a) Own dedicated sales team. In India they have over 110 sales people. This team is managed by a fortune 500 company in India - Ma Foi.
b) A dedicated 53-man training and knowledge organisation in New Delhi managed by La- Marca.
c) Marketing communication managed by Raceme and Lintas.
d) Customer support both through a call center and a BPO managed by outsourced partner.
e) Technology support is managed by Xorient, an American MNC through its office in Mumbai.
f) The company pays all the taxes, like service tax, in India.
g) Foreign remittances are handled by RBI approved forex agents like ICICI Bank.
i) The company is registered in Singapore and is not required to have a permanent establishment (PE) in India as per prevailing laws.
This level of intense on-the-ground infrastructure is rare in the online industry.

Q2. We would like to know about the founders/promoters of SpeakAsia in India. Can you share their contact details?
Ans: There are no promoters from India.

Q3. Has SpeakAsia obtained any permission from the RBI as the business involves handling foreign currency transactions?
Ans: Foreign remittances are handled by RBI-approved forex dealers ICICI Bank and ING Vysya Bank.
 
Q4. How does SpeakAsia transfer money from other currencies to Indian rupees and vice-versa into the panelists' account?
Ans: By bank transfer through TT. Indian banks convert the currency once the TT is received by a panelist.

Q5. Has SpeakAsia obtained any permission from SEBI to run a collective investment scheme, which promises assured returns?
Ans: NA (not applicable). It's not an investment scheme. Participation in the company activities earns reward points. No work-No rewards, unlike an investment.

Q6. Are there any legal cases pending against SpeakAsia in Singapore or in India?
Ans: No.

Q7. We have written on SpeakAsia in the past and these reports received many comments from readers. Most of the comments were asking people to join the business with the promise to show income. We found it strange and unethical that panelists from a company should post so many comments, that too to spread their business on our site.
Ans: We will send a communication to panelists to desist from such promotion. Though, you will appreciate, we have very little control on independent consumers.

Moneylife's report about SpeakAsiaonline, published on 8 October 2010, continues to attract comments. Interestingly, a large number of them were panelists of SpeakAsiaonline who used our forum to market the service. We have been forced to delete these promotions from time to time.

According to a news report in February 2010, Singapore-based Harendra Kaur, through Haren Technologies, opened up a franchisee for SpeakAsia in India, which became operational from May 2010. Till date, the company claims to have enrolled around 7.5 lakh panelists and has ambitious plans to take this figure to one crore by end-December 2011, the report said.

A web search revealed that litigation has been filed against the company at several places. On 10 March 2011, the city magistrate, Gorakhpur, issued a notice to SpeakAsia for the third time seeking answers to 10 specific questions, it was reported by the Amar Ujala Hindi daily. The magistrate, Jitendra Pratap Singh, has asked the company to provide information about the MLM company's tax liabilities, how they provide money to subscribers at fixed currency rate, whether it has obtained permission from the RBI to conduct such operations, how it converts foreign currency into rupees for Indian subscribers, qualifications required to become a member, how the company maintains its records and the conditions to become a franchisee. What is stunning is that a person by the name of Anurag Nigam, who claimed to be the regional manager of SpeakAsia, could not provide any identification card or visiting card in the court, the newspaper reported.

In another news report published by Amar Ujala on 1 April 2011, Mr Gautam claimed that the company provides services to around 600 companies, including ICICI, Bata, Nestlé and Airtel. We sent mails to ICICI Bank and Bharti Airtel, but till the time of writing the story, there was no reply from them.

Most service provider companies are usually proud to display the names of their clients prominently on their web sites. However, either SpeakAsia is very shy, or it does not want to show off the names of its clients, who spend huge amounts of money on their surveys.

According to information available, SpeakAsia has set up its India offices at Navi Mumbai and Gurgaon. Here again, no information is available about these offices and addresses on the company website.

Although we have written about MLM companies many times in the past, here are a few facts that you need to keep in mind with regard to companies like SpeakAsia online.

1. Why would anyone pay Rs1,000 per week or Rs52,000 a year for a subscription of Rs11,000 per annum for a e-zine? Think for yourself as the owner of a company and answer this-would you pay four times the amount to anyone for his investment (!) in just one year?

2. If the business is so lucrative, why not offer this opportunity to people from other countries as well? How about doing this business in developed regions like the US and European countries? Where people do not get much more than about 3% a year on their investments. With returns as high as over four times their original investment, people from these regions would jump on to the online survey bandwagon. However, this will never happen, because there are very strict laws and punishments for fraud and for duping people in these regions, compared with that in India and Bangladesh. So the 'business' is thriving here and not in the US or even in Singapore, where SpeakAsia claims to be a registered entity.

3. Every agent, sorry, panelist of the company claims to have proof of their income from the surveys. However, what they show you as proof is not a bank statement, but their e-wallet created on the company site. Transferring money from e-wallet into a bank account involves a transaction charge of 3% or $7.5 per payment, whichever is higher.

4. You would rarely find any company doing marketing for its best-selling product. At the same time, you would find a number of offers for products that are not being sold as per expectations. Apply this logic to SpeakAsia, and you will understand why their agents are hell-bent on registering more and more people below their ranks. (BTW: It is called as legs, left and right and the pair is supposed to give the agent 'additional' binary income. The spreading of binary income is always in pyramid shape. The commission is given only on matching pairs, which means that if you have one sub-agent under one leg and two under another leg, you would receive commission only for two sub-agents and not three. In addition, every month, MLM companies 'carry' the stronger leg forward, or in short you miss commission from the leg that has less sub-agents.)

5. "If it looks too good to be true, it usually is."  In short, stay away from any company, any scheme that promises you huge or substantial return.

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    COMMENTS

    Ashish Chhabra

    8 years ago

    Its total fraud. I understood from day one.Other then India there is no franchisee listed on website. If they have 1L of panelists then they have to pay 5 cr inr plus there expanses. Which comp gives that much for survey. and if pay that comp should be equivalent or more then Microsoft. Definitely Indian comp cant give this much. so the client should be international and if international then why they dont ask local public for survey ? another point when total business is online why the purchase subscription is offline.. They dont have a/c in India for netbanking ? ... India is always soft target and business rules are weak and govt is so lazy. Public or some organisation have kick the govt officials to take action. .. Comp owners are Indians and they know loop holes of Indian business rules. Wat if now comp closed they have already collected cr of rupees. on site mentions for all kind of legal issues you have to go Singapore... They know no body will come to Singapore to file a case for 11k rupees. so soon they will run away.

    anup

    8 years ago

    very ethical& logicaL;This information needs to be highlighted in print media too as many of the investors do not have acess to email or websites;

    tafseer rizvi

    8 years ago

    we would like to join the speak asia but nt without believe

    bharat

    8 years ago

    "If it looks too good to be true, it usually is."

    pcow

    8 years ago

    Dear Blogger, you are under Indian Laws and that means this objectionable things about financial matter can give you headache after you publish it. You are not in any country like USA or Singapore which give internet more freedom than news papers. By Indian IT Act you can get a complaint and that is the end of the story. You may be correct but I think, be cautious.

    REPLY

    Jai

    In Reply to pcow 8 years ago

    We are In process of Reply and Remove the myth of MLM Industry, Please us ur profile. We Screening IT Act Expert.

    shahryar

    8 years ago

    Speak Asia is tempting...so many success stories of people who joined earlier makes us join too...whether we will gain something or not its a gamble...we all know Speakasia is simply circulating money...once new panelists stops joining...the old gets into doodrums. So good luck to those who are with SA.

    Anup sharma

    8 years ago

    hey! someone can help me out i have registered my name a month ago nd regularly solving the survey is it sure dat i wil get my money ?????????and wen expected i'l gt ma money.

    Vishal

    8 years ago

    Please can any one give me Mr. Tarak Bajpai, contact nos. or any of the management team member contact nos.

    rajat

    8 years ago

    let me state a fact here, being absolutely unbiased. Speakasian business is shady, no 2nd thoughts on that. What they r doing is no rocket science, we all understand that. But, having said that, fact remains that till now they r paying back the money. It's pretty simple, this company will sustain till thr r new members joining, after that it will stop. So if u r lucky & join early, then u will get ur monthly payments. But if u r late and join at the end, then u will lose ur money. So its a risk that u decide whether u wanna take or not. Just to add, I haven't joined speakasia since I don't trust it but few of my family members have and till now they r getting paid for their surveys.

    anju agarwal

    8 years ago

    i personally know and can vouch for at least ten people who are speakasians for at least 6 months who have been getting regular surveys and regular bank transfers.one of these guys was a diamond assorter in a company being paid some 10-15 thou per month today he is earning over a lac has quit his job got married and currenty vacationing with his bride in pattaya.the company has purchased an 8000 sqft office in goregoan mumbai.they have paid ibm amazon a huge sum for a heavy duty server farm which matches the server strength behind facebook.when the press picked up the gauntlet against them speakasia held a press conference which some media attended with a clear intent of an ambush. the coverage to this conference on channels was a shameful decietful lie.a company with intent of running would not apply for 2 g licence to trai to enter mobile telephony.it would not come on prime time tv and not be allowed to talk by corrupt small time poiticians like kirit sommaiya.the moment the noise started they would have flown out overnight.at least for this alone ,leave aside the great faith that speakasians have,give them some space and call off the witchhunt.think of this another way-once they come out all shinyfaced where will you all hide your fangs and talons and ugly lies.

    mmanoj anturkar

    8 years ago

    star news ko dekhana maine band kiya hai.star news ki her khabar ab paid news lagane lagi hai.inka irada logo ke prati thik nahi lagata.speak asia ne unko achhi thappad mari hai.i am sure star news chanel is a very mean minded.

    Ajay Chandar

    8 years ago

    I won't say much here, but the activities of this company have made me raise my eyebrows.

    Aam Hindustani

    8 years ago

    Hi,

    I sincerely thank moneylife for all it's efforts and investigations abt SpeakAsia.Through your continous effort of spreading negativity abt this entire concept,you yourselves have promoted the brand 'SpeakAsia' to such a large extent ,that people visit the website atleast once to have more insights.Here,I would like to repeat the famous dialogue from the Film Guru,where Abhishek Bachan says " Agar log aapki kaamyabi se jalte hai,to samaj lo ki aap taraki kar rahe ho"

    REPLY

    Mohit

    In Reply to Aam Hindustani 8 years ago

    rightly said, lekin yahan log tumhari jala rahe hai. Does this means, you are dead! hahahahaha....GET WELL SOON

    Aam Hindustani

    In Reply to Mohit 8 years ago

    jala meri rahe hain...aur dhuaan tere aur se ut raha hain....mohit,jara maturity level dikhana...jab tum aise forum mein aate hoo...in fact after reading ur last line...i should reciprocate "Get Well now"...

    Amol

    8 years ago

    The saying goes, there are liars, damn liars and then there are statisticians. I think we can replace one of those words with 'speakasians'

    REPLY

    Cool

    In Reply to Amol 8 years ago

    @Amol: and waht make you think like that...??? Besides, every epeakasian getting their money transferred to their Bank a/c including me...

    Ashish

    In Reply to Cool 8 years ago

    You may be getting money regular but did you get complete 11k ? This is the money they have taken from you people earning interest on it and giving you some money from it.. This is business of interest bole to sudkhori. I wish you get at least what you have invested.

    Dr Baharul Islam Laskar

    8 years ago

    Speakasia online is doing great job in removing unemployment among educated youths in India. I joined in Nov.10 and never tried to refer any one till feb'11. I started getting my income credited in my Bank account from January last week. Then I informed few close friends and relatives. They joined and my leg started growing..... Till today four of my downline purchased laptops from their income and doing survey... earning cash. If speak asia is fraud, how they will dare to face press conference!!!!

    REPLY

    szar

    In Reply to Dr Baharul Islam Laskar 8 years ago

    it is your friends and relatives , the so called legs, on whom your payment is standing.
    They are paying for your money.
    If they get more bakras, they may also get paid. But only for a while, the end is near.

    This MLM openly flouts SEBI norms and offers 120% returns in a year through stock market investment!

    Stockguru.India and its group companies are self-styled investment advisors, offering Rs22,000 on an investment of Rs10,000 in one year

    As if there were not enough potholes on the stock market route, here is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company that is promising 20% returns per month! The company Stockguru.India describes itself as the country's 'Premier Financial Consultancy', offering trading solutions in equity, derivatives, currency futures, commodities trading, initial public offerings (IPOs), insurance (life/non-life), general insurance, mutual funds, portfolio management services, terminal handling all under one roof.

    Stockguruindia.com (the company's portal) has only one standard line of advice in all market situations-whether it is a bull market or a bear market, range-bound market or volatile market. It says, "We advise our clients to buy shares at a low price and sell them at a higher price. Selecting the right share at the right price and entering the capital market at the right time is an art. We help all our clients to make huge profits by investing in good shares for very short/short/medium/long term depending upon the client's requirements. Trading/investment for minimum intraday to T+5 days may give you a handsome return of 5% to 25% on your capital investment."

    This MLM company's investment (!) plan is simple. You pay a minimum Rs10,000 as investment and Rs1,000 as registration fees. There is no limit on the maximum amount one can invest. Stockguruindia.com offers a return of 20% per month for up to six months and the principal amount invested is returned in the next six months. It also gives post-dated cheques of the principal and a promissory note as security. In short, on an investment of Rs11,000, the company offers to pay you Rs12,000 in six months and the rest Rs10,000 over the next six months, a total of Rs22,000 or a 120% return in a year.

    So how does Stockguruindia.com offer such a high return where even leading investors like Rakesh Jhunjhunwala found it very hard to earn even 20% return from the stock markets? Here is the company's logic..."If you have gained Rs1,000 somebody has lost Rs1,000. If you have lost Rs1,000 somebody has gained Rs1,000. Most of the people you meet say (around 90%) that we have lost a lot of money in the financial markets. But that means around 90% people you do not know have made huge profits. For every seller there is a buyer."

    If this sounds to be too good to be true, it lures investors with an additional 3% per month income through a binary plan of 27 levels. Binary plans of MLM companies are the new clients you bring in, who are placed below you in rank in a right and left combination. It's nothing but a trap. All MLM companies promise say you rewards if you complete the left leg-right leg cycle. But in practice this does not happen. There are very few people who manage to do this in a proper way. A majority of those participating fall in the category where they lack a single member in one leg, or a member becomes inactive thus freezing the spread of that leg and the business.

    How do MLM companies operate without a trading license from the regulators, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)? Why has there been no action against Stockguru.India, Stockguruindia.com and its subsidiaries? Market regulator SEBI had, on its part, issued SEBI (Investment Advisers) Regulations, 2007 (the 'Draft Regulations') to regulate the advisory activities of investment advisers in India. But till date it has remained a draft only.

    According to R Balakrishnan, a columnist for Moneylife, India probably is the only market in the world where a distributor needs to pass an exam, but absolutely no qualifications are required for someone to become a fund manager. The same is applicable for investment advisors as well. As a result, there are a number of 'self-styled investment advisors', including wealth managers, private bankers, chartered accountants and even some MLM companies like Stockguru.India.  

    According to the SEBI Act 1992, "No stock-broker, sub-broker, share transfer agent, banker to an issue, trustee of trust deed, registrar to an issue, merchant banker, underwriter, portfolio manager, investment adviser and such other intermediary who may be associated with the securities market shall buy, sell or deal in securities except under, and in accordance with, the conditions of a certificate of registration obtained from the Board in accordance with the regulations made under this Act."
     
    In addition, the Act says, "No person shall sponsor or cause to be sponsored or carry on or caused to be carried on any venture capital funds or collective investment scheme (CIS) including mutual funds, unless he obtains a certificate of registration from the Board in accordance with the regulations."

    Stockguru.India and all its group companies are openly flouting the norms and rules. It is not registered with SEBI as investment adviser and still offers to trade on behalf of its clients. According to information available over the internet, Stockguru.India and its chairman and managing director Lokeshwar Dev, will help anyone to open a demat account with Sharekhan so that they can manage the investor's money. We checked with Sharekhan and the brokerage said, neither Stockguru.India nor Lokeshwar Dev have any relations with or any demat account with them.

    In addition, neither Stockguru.India nor any of its group companies possess a certificate of registration from SEBI for CIS, but they are still collecting huge amounts from clients under the pretext of stock market investment. Are the regulators sleeping on this one?

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    User

    COMMENTS

    Rakesh Ranjan

    3 years ago

    Well... People who are not making effort, complain such things. People who have habit of finding fault will never see good things. We have lost our vision. Everyone wants easy money. I would only say, people who complain are not making seriously effort. I am in business and I make good amount of money. I have already recovered what I had invested. I would only say, stop complaining and start working. You yourself will find the change.

    shankar

    8 years ago

    All that SEBI can do is to make hard Law against Mutual Fund Agents IFA. who do their job Honestly.Nothing more than that SEBI can do....Shame on SEBI.India mei Brahctachar ke liye bohut jagah hai lekin Imandari Honesty ke liye koi jagah nahi

    sanjay giri

    8 years ago

    NO

    KANAK PANDEY

    9 years ago

    after suicide of stock guru india's clients , the law book is read by govt. official, and not before 5 yrs when it was lunched. neither a single govt. official had inspected the office nor the govt of haryan a, delhi made obligation for giving certificate.

    riteone

    9 years ago

    I have invested money in SGI. Let me be true, what is the function of govt. and RBI; tax your income and put it in pocket of richest like Anil, Mukesh, Tata and so on. (Check their wealth on forbes with tax holiday they enjoy.) Listen to 'Robert Kiyosaki'; if you still dream govt. or SEBI etc to save you. They are here to take your money legally. If this is wrong, are aware about meetings by bigshots(so called investment firms) to manipulate price everyday before market opens? Have your mutual fund manager shown you, how much they have earned and manipulated and what a miserable piece of profit thrown to you? There are manipulators who earn 20% daily(40% on FOREX - ofcourse not on USD~INR - which is only legal). Every share can go up to max 20% up or down in a day, and you say 20% per month is impossible? Think again, how FII make our market dance,huh!

    Jeeshanali

    9 years ago

    Hi, so it mean the company is fraud....? then how they can show the legal documents on their website...? like PAN/TAN no's etc..,.? plz tell us details bcz m investing 3 lakh rupees...? so should i avoid to invest..,? 8983185152

    REPLY

    PAN

    In Reply to Jeeshanali 9 years ago

    bhai, showing PAN/TAN does not allow one to collect money from anyone. What eh company is doing is collecting money, then circulating it at the top and then leaving you alone without any money. Dont invest.

    Manoj

    9 years ago

    Thank you for promptly removing the ad.

    Nagesh KiniFCA

    9 years ago

    A smart cookie from Citibank Gurgaon pulls an exteremely fast one on not less than 20 HNI - don't tell me they were so docile and not extremely greedy - to commit as much as Rs.400 crores.
    This guy was smart enough to forge both SEBI and bank's own internal circulars!
    Goes to validate - "Duniya Jukti hain, Jhookanewala chayehe".
    The Yanks boast of foolproof systems, operating procedures and what not, but it took a smart desi to circumvent all of them for long.
    What happens to audits, inspections and K(Kick)YCs?

    Manoj

    9 years ago

    Moderator/Editor,
    How can you allow ads in your comments section -especially if that ad is for the very person / firm you are castigating in your article.

    shankar

    9 years ago

    SEBI can only do is to BAN the ENTRY LOADS OF MUTUAL FUNDS AND BAN THE RURAL AND SMALL BUDGET PEOPLE FROM INVESTING IN MUTUAL FUND BY MAKING ANY KIND OF REGULATION ANY MOMENT.WHAT WILL PEOPLE DO.SO THEY INVEST IN MLM COMPANIES WHICH OFFERS GOOD RETURN.IN MUTUAL FUND ALSO THERE IS NO GAURANTEE OF FIXED RETURN BUT IN MLM CAMPANIES THERE IS FIXED RETURN.RISK IS IN BOTH THE INVESTMENTS.

    Nagesh KiniFCA

    9 years ago

    It is in deed a sad commentary on our so-called Regulatory oversight.
    If Stockguru can operate so blatantly flouting Sharekhan name who deny any relations. It will not take it long to go the Harshad Mehta/Ketan Parekh/CR Bansali way dragging many greedy gullibles.
    It is rightly said "Duniya Jhukti hai, jhukanewalla chayehe" ! Enter Stockguru.

    Nitin Gupta

    9 years ago

    Is SEBI sleeping ? Double your money in 12 months.

    REPLY

    Rajesh

    In Reply to Nitin Gupta 7 years ago

    What SEBI its always sleeping..

    This idiot nation only allowing all fraud company's. Can this kind of fraud MLM company having the power to do this fraud with other nation...

    Idiot indian goverment only allow all kind of business in this market , becaus of this only some middle and poor people coming for fraudlent.

    regards
    rajesh

    Manoj

    9 years ago

    Here is one more example of someone openly offering portfolio management service without sebi registration:

    http://www.ratechnicals.com/services.htm...

    Bury 15,000 People—and Other Scams

    The neta-babu class seems to have patented the drag-&-dilute technique of burying a scandal

    When death came to Bhopal a quarter century ago, it was at least indiscriminate in picking its targets. It is only when our netas and babus got into the act that they ensured that those who were culpable were let off and the case dragged on for decades in the hope that nobody would ever remember...

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