SpeakAsia Online SpeakAsiaOnline SAOL scam, COO, more arrested in India for pyramid scheme disguised as survey company
SpeakAsia Online recently claimed over two million members. They claim to represent some of the largest companies in Asia in soliciting public opinion by signing people up to answer surveys. The company claims to be based in Singapore. However, its heaviest presence appears to be in India.
In April 2011, MoneyLife of India, which is among the first Indian organization to call SpeakAsia 'shady", sent letters to various regulatory agencies urging investigation of this business. In Mid-May 2011, investigative journalists from India Today and Star TV revealed that the entire company is founded on lies, and is a barely disguised pyramid scheme. A variety of agencies responded, and in Late July 2011, its COO in India was arrested along with various other members.
So what is SpeakAsia Online? And why is it a pyramid scheme?
What is a Pyramid Scheme?
"A pyramid scheme is a non-sustainable business model that involves promising participants payment, services or ideals, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme or training them to take part, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public. Pyramid schemes are a form of fraud"
What is SpeakAsia's Business Model?
SpeakAsia claims to be "largest integrated online survey group in the Asian sub-continent". On their "why join" page, they wrote:
Speak Asia participates with manufacturers of products and service providers in the following ways :
- Infomercials on ezines , Television and Website
- Advertisement and Surveys
- Product Demonstrations and presentations
- Product Sales and product references .
At Speak Asia, we understand your opinion is valuable. You get rewarded for your honest opinion and the time you take out to respond to the surveys of our clients.
In other words, SpeakAsia implies it is getting paid by product makers and service providers to get opinions about the products the services from their members. Please keep in mind that this is a claim that is NOT substantiated by any evidence.
Furthermore, SpeakAsia announced a news conference where they apologized for misleading people that ICICI Bank, Bata, Nestle and Bharti Airtel and more as their clients. Their marketing officer made a grave error, they claimed. This leads some to suspect that SpeakAsia has no real and substantial clients at all.
So what do the members get out of it?
What is SpeakAsia's compensation plan for members?
According to SpeakAsia's own webpage, as a member, you can make money two ways:
- Take surveys
- Recruit more members
Make Money by Taking Surveys? Not Really
How do you make money by taking surveys? According to SpeakAsia...
As soon as you complete your registration, you are immediately eligible for two weekly surveys. These surveys will be shown to you every time you log in.
As a standard panelist you can earn up to 7 reward points every week (364 reward points in a year).
Whereas, as a premium panelist you can earn 20 reward points every week (1040 reward points in a year) for surveys and other activities completed.
You can buy maximum 03 panel centers. You can add up to 09 sub panels on each panel center and maximize your survey income up to 10 times.
So what is a "panel center"? That's yourself. You can buy up to 3 memberships, which is called a "panel". Subpanels are your "downlines", i.e. people you recruited.
A "standard panel" costs $120 and is good for 6 months, and a "premium panel" cost $220 and is good for a full year.
So what are reward points? Each one is good for $1 US Dollar.
As a premium panelist, you can earn $1040 a year by surveys... if they are accepted. Since you need to pay $220 to join, your "net" earning is $820 PER YEAR. You also have to subtract the $60 initial test fee.
Make Money by Recruiting More Members? Heck, yeah.
SpeakAsia has a MUCH longer explanation on how you can earn reward points (read: dollars) by referring people. Not only you get money by direct referral ($10 or $20 per person referred), you also get "referral points" which can be traded for reward points. And reward points can be traded for US Dollars.
The comp plan is complicated, but it is clear even from a simple glance that VAST MAJORITY of your income will be from recruiting, possibly thousands of reward points / dollars per month.
Compensation Plan Conclusion
All of compensation plan emphasizes recruiting. There is barely a sentence or two about taking surveys. In fact, there is no requirement to take a SINGLE SURVEY to make money in SpeakAsia at all.
Why would a survey company care very little about members taking surveys, but a LOT about members recruiting more members?
SpeakAsia Reps Arrested in Bangladesh
According to India Today, two SpeakAsia Reps were arrested by police when members confronted the two local recruiters for financial fraud.
Furthermore, when questioned repeatedly regarding operations in Bangladesh, the CEO of SpeakAsia had denied it had any operation there. However, a letter was quickly discovered online allegedly from "owner of SpeakAsia", that operations in Bangladesh is going very well, and soon members will be paid and business conducted in local currency.
Does SpeakAsia's Business Model Make Sense?
SpeakAsia never actually revealed their business model. They implied that they are paid by product makers and service providers, but they never actually said so.
SpeakAsia's CEO India went on TV to apologize for misleading the public in claiming various large companies had enlisted SpeakAsia's help. It is unclear how can SpeakAsia have a CEO India when it has no legal presence in India at all.
Furthermore, in another press conference, the company representatives denied that it is even a market research company or a survey company. The terms used by "officer of emerging markets" was "precision marketing services (panel) provider". What does that actually mean was never explained. Though later, the same officer claimed that SpeakAsia does not conduct market research, but instead, provide panels (i.e. member) to organizations that actually do market research.
In other words, they only recruit and sell nothing. Furthermore, recruits are required to subscribe to this horrendously overpriced "magazine" for 6 to 12 months, and get paid if they can get other people to do the same. Why is that not a pyramid scheme?
In a separate press conference attended only by SpeakAsia's lawyers, the lawyer claimed that SpeakAsia is actually a magazine publisher, and all the members paid for are subscriptions to the weekly survey magazines. This is three definitions from three different sources from the same company.
Three places, three different explanations were offered. None of them explain all the evidence available. It is clear that SpeakAsia people don't know what their own company is doing, or they are all lying. This is just like Bill Clinton claiming "I did not have sex." Furthermore, the lawyer who offered that explanation quit a week later. What does that say about his explanation?
PAYING someone to take survey and make money makes no sense. Real survey companies may pay a stipend, but only for a completed survey, and they'd never ask you to recruit more members. They certainly will not ask you for application fee. Furthermore, the costs cited by the SpeakAsia official is 3 to 20x higher than actual costs of conducting surveys.
Once you analyze the compensation plan, it is clear that SpeakAsia thrives without doing ANY surveys, because not only it gets money from all new members (the $60 test fee), it also gets 'subscriptions' from all the panel members. The compensation plan is clear: the more people you refer, the more you make... without taking a single survey. There is no income other than membership fees.
How can a survey company not require a member to take a single survey to get paid? Indeed, SpeakAsia now denies it is even a survey company. It changed its tagline to "'Asia's leading integrated market services agency".
Is SpeakAsia a Pyramid Scheme? Absolutely yes!
Based on the criteria we quoted earlier, SpeakAsia is a pyramid scheme. You make money by recruiting more members like yourself (called panels). Taking surveys is merely an afterthought.
This is the same conclusion drawn by India Today / Star TV investigative journalists. You can watch the entire 40-minute broadcast here, in 10 4-minute segments.
http://headlinestoday.intoday.in/site/headlines_today/programme/the-two-faces-of-speak-asia/1/138596.html (Link broken)
SpeakAsia Indian Offices Raided by Authorities
SpeakAsia Indian offices were raided by Indian authorities for tax evasion and other irregularities when India Today's coverage of this scam surfaced. India Today has discovered that the owner is a shell corporation based in the Virgin Islands.
Multiple local governments and various regulatory agencies in India have joined the investigation into this scam.
104 Million USD transferred to Singapore by SpeakAsia, AG said
According to Advocate General of Criminal Investigative Division of India, SpeakAsia was able to funnel $104 Million USD ($462 crore Rupees) out of India to Singapore when a judge lifted the account freeze ordered by CID. The account freeze was reinstated a week later upon review by a judge panel, but damage was already done.
SpeakAsia Indian COO arrested
Tarak Bajpai, COO of SpeakAsia, was arrested by Economic Offenses Wing of Mumbai, along with several other offenders, who will be flown back to Mumbai to face charges.
According to Superintendent of Police, Bajpai's arrest was for "forgery and financial irregularities."
The Cult of SpeakAsia
Since the eruption of the charges, it is amazing how the "followers" of SpeakAsia turned into a cult, where no questioning of SpeakAsia is tolerated. Everything is "we believe in SpeakAsia, SpeakAsia is great, we will get paid if the government will just leave us alone, blah blah blah."
In fact, SpeakAsia even released a video here it portrayed itself as a... mime, in a game of snakes and ladders, really.
Do you see any signs of cult behavior? I'll just list the ones I found that seem to apply here:
The following are "methods of cult brainwashing"
- GROUP PRESSURE and “LOVE BOMBING” discourages doubts and reinforces the need to belong
The participants on all SpeakAsia forums and various other places appear to be cultish, with fervent defense of SpeakAsia without logical reason, and with overt hostility against government. Any dissent is quickly shouted down with "SpeakAsia is great" messages.
- ISOLATION\SEPARATION creates inability or lack of desire to verify information provided by the group with reality.
Any derision of SpeakAsia, even by officials such as courts, agencies, and so on, are dismissed as "government interference", "getting paid by competitors", and so on. SpeakAsia itself also helped the "mob" along by releasing the video above, portraying regulators and such as devils with spears.
- SENSORY OVERLOAD forces acceptance of complex new doctrine, goals, and definitions to replace old values by expecting recruit to assimilate masses of information quickly with little opportunity for critical examination.
By claiming itself to be a survey company, and claim government is the real enemy of prosperity, SpeakAsia has very cleverly inverted reality. In fact, consider this quote from a SpeakAsia member:
... But what about the people who have already put in thousands of rupees into this, because of the govt. taking action, the current investors are also not getting their money back!!
( cited from http://behindmlm.com/companies/speak-asia-online/speak-asia-online-coo-tarak-bajpai-arrested-in-mumbai/#comment-28367 )
In other words, he thinks BECAUSE the government is interfering, the people who's in lost their money, so government should stop interfering!
SpeakAsia's compensation package is a pyramid scheme disguised by a token disguise of surveys.
SpeakAsia's corporate structure was revealed to be a fraud held by shell company on the other side of the globe.
SpeakAsia's headquarters in Singapore was revealed to be a sham.
SpeakAsia CEO admitted that their clients do not exist, and any claim of large income are misunderstandings.
SpeakAsia claimed to be either a survey company or a market research company, then denied being either. Its lawyer claimed it is a magazine publisher. However, its business registration shows it to be none of the above.
SpeakAsia is being investigated by multiple government agencies.
SpeakAsia used cult techniques to whip up support for itself
SpeakAsia delayed the Indian government from freezing its assets, resulting in 104 MILLION USD transferred out of India, where Indian government can't touch.
SpeakAsia's COO was arrested along with others for financial irregularities and forgery.
SpeakAsia is a scam.
How to Spot Internet Pyramid Schemes
- 9 signs Multi-Level Marketing MLM Opportunity is actually a pyramid scheme: How to determine legalit
How do you tell if that MLM opportunity you are interested is not a pyramid scheme in disguise? Here are 9 signs to look for.
- How to Research a Network Marketing Opportunity with the Internet: It Is Much Easier Than You Think
Wondering if a Network Marketing Opportunity is good for you? Here are the topics you should to research on, and what sort of answers are good, bad, or outright ugly.
- 7 Network Marketing Truths You Must Know Before You Jump In: don't be desperate!
There are six things you must know before you join any network marketing / MLM / Direct Selling company, and I don't mean sales techniques. Learn how to avoid scams and bad uplines, and how to pick the right opportunity.
- How an Internet Ponzi or Pyramid Scheme Works, and How to Avoid Such a Matrix Scheme
Learn how Internet Pyramid Scheme and Ponzi Scheme operate, and how you can spot them with simple list of 5 questions and a dose of skepticism.
More by this Author
- 279 signs Multi-Level Marketing MLM Opportunity is actually a 2x2 2x3 pyramid scheme / matrix / board / scam
Are you in a real MLM, or a fake MLM which is in reality a pyramid scheme in disguise? Here are 9 signs you must be aware of to not get scammed.
A common modelling agency scam targets younger females looking for work as amateur models, and ends up costing them a lot of money without giving them jobs.
Multi-level marketing, i.e. MLM / network marketing, has five fundamental flaws that you need to know before you join.