Well a few months back a friend of mine approached me to become a part of some Survey company who is paying INR 1000 per 2 online surveys (takes 20mins) and one had to invest INR 11000 upfront. Being on the internet for more then 12 years now from the face of it looked to me as some scam as who in the world will pay Rs.1000 (thats around 25$) for some 20 mins that too for a survey. That time I didnt even cared to ask about the name of the company.
Recently it again caught my attention by seeing the "Speak Asia" ads frequently in middle of IPL. I am sure you all have also seen Speak Asia advertisement how its now easy to make money online by filling surveys and the whole family is happy. So the deal seems to be getting more sweeter by the day for everyone joining in and they are not only making money for the participants, and for themselves too to buy advertising spots in IPL matches and also run a few TVC kind of ads on Imagine TV where the anchor is Rakshanda Khan.
The funny part was that the only qualification you need is that you should be above 18 year old and should know English + basic internet to browse. You dont have to do anything except filling surveys. If you want to make more money you can either sponsor someone or get a few friends of yours under you and make some % of their earnings too. A typical multi-level-marketing scheme where the more you climb higher the ladder you earn more.
It may be a marketing strategy to get more people signed up and that is absolutely fine. But they are all joining in joining in to make money from filling surveys and not for the "E-Zine" that the company says that they are selling as subscription. Honestly speaking the e-zine is not worth anything.
But the basic thing that I was still not clear was that does survey pays that well and I asked so few marketing and research experts and all said that the pricing is too steep to sustain. There are FMCG companies which does researches from time to time for their different products but they also not spending that much and the ones who pays premium (not anything in range of what Speak Asia pays) also seeks people to meet certain qualification like an investor or some academic qualification etc.
So that made me suspicious to dig further:
a) Company Background:
The company name is: SpeakAsia Online Pte Ltd.
formerly known as : Haren Technology Pte. Ltd.
formerly known as: PAN Automotives Pte. Ltd.
(Compliance rating for this company is Non Compliant currently)
Prior to this name they were operating under:
HAREN VENTURES PTE. LTD.
f.k.a HAREN AUTO PARTS PTE. LTD.
f.k.a HAREN MULTICONSULT TRADE SERVICES PTE. LTD.
I asked one of my CA friend that how frequently a company change it names and he said its very less and not done so frequently. There are 2 more companies with the same name whose status is either Cancelled or Terminated and again they keep changing their company name:
HAREN AUTO & HEAVY EQUIPMENTS
f.k.a HAREN AUTOMOTIVES & COMPONENTS
HAREN MULTICONSULT TRADE SERVICES
And there is a defunct website too: http://www.hmtservices.com/ where we can find the products they were dealing before starting this business which is no where related to online surveys or dotcoms. Check out the page http://www.hmtservices.com/sparts.htm (probably they didnt had an active webmaster or the designer left work half complete due to several reasons)
b) When doing little more research on the address of the company the same address is used for different companies. A simple Google can throw a few names which I am listing below. Some of the companies having the same address are:
Valves.Com Pte Ltd
SBS Consulting Pte. Ltd.
http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/3762/unledrh.jpg ---> thanks metiz for the image
c) The company has a franchisee model so at the face of it you are not paying anything directly to the company "Speak Asia" and it goes in the name of the franchise (bank account) and who further pass that money to someone in Mumbai and all get to keep a certain % out of it. If its such a big company they should provide an option to pay online through credit card directly to them instead of making so many layers of people accepting payments on companies behalf and would have helped them with instant signups.
d) If you watch YouTube for their Torch Bearers 2011 meet they are talking about opening a TV Channel by August 2011. Very nice and ambitious plan but doesnt it require a lot of regulatory processes and time and huge "money". But the ground reality is that they dont have a single registered office in India. There are claims that it will be open in May 2011 in Mumbai.
e) I found it amusing that they were using a hosted software at SurveyMonkey as their survey tool and only recently purchased Novi Survey. If its an established proven business with multi million dollars in revenue they should have built the survey system completely inhouse on which their entire business model works.
f) They claim they are established in Singapore / Malaysia / Indonesia but after doing a lot of research I didnt find enough evidence that proves that they are getting enough traffic from any of these countries to prove their claim. They are mainly in India and Bangladesh only.
g) Its great to see them doing so well that they advertising heavily on IPL matches, daily newspapers which reminds me of the hometrade advertisements in which Sachin, Shahrukh and Hrithik used to appear and within months the company disappeared and all these celebrities were not even paid in full. Read more about HomeTrade Scam at http://www.suchetadalal.com/?id=a60a3ffc-a8bd-0368-492e822e450e&base=sub_sections_content&f&t=Home+Trade%27s+%27starry%27+gameplan.
h) Again when you do some research on the domain : SpeakAsiaOnline.com
This was registered on 21 January 2010 and they started working in India from February 2010. So the point is that the whole scheme is not that OLD as the company proclaims that it is working since 2006. Earlier the company was doing agreements with Franchisee through the name "Haren Auto Parts Pte. Ltd." which again changed to Haren Ventures Pte. Ltd.
The address mentioned on their WHOIS doesnt match with their registered company address.
WHOIS Record says:
Speakasia Online Pte. Ltd.
71 Bukit Batok Crescent #10-08 Prestige
Company website mentions:
Speak Asia Online Pte. Ltd.
Address: 10 Ubi Crescent, #07-68, Ubi Techpark,
Well the reason for that could be that lets assume they are busy to update that just like the fact that their company was not able to be in compliant with Acra and hold timely AGM and submit their annual accounts on time due to the Directors travelling and expanding business in India.
h) The site indeed gets a lot of traffic and that certainly makes them one of the fastest growing website, their current Alexa ranking is at 839
i) Well many do beleive its a great opportunity and many feel its like a Ponzi scheme. If its the latter then how the whole thing works and how long it will last:
Well if we assume that company is not making money much out of these surveys and just running a ponzi scheme where the going is good till the flow of incoming people is great and keeps paying the subscribers them their own money and the new people who joined this affair. How will that work out:
For the first three month it is actually just paying out your own money back. So for the company there is always a buffer time of 3 months for the people to even realize how they have been gamed / duped. To keep the ship sailing they need to double their signups every quarter which is luckily happening for them So that they can pay the earlier and current customers from that money and keep some money for advertisement to maintain their signup targets.
So what will happen once the company falls short of their target of adding more people to its subscribers list?
The first thing will be that there will be a rate cut in the surveys. Secondly we see less frequent surveys and at the end there will be hardly any surveys. The company is liable to pay only when you participate and fill the survey and as an user you cant sue the company as they are not liable to pay anything to you in the event there are no surveys. The initial 11,000 (which is soon going to be 15000) is towards the E-Zine so you continue to get that E-Zine
What happens when the company stops Surveys or doesnt pay?
Well nothing can be done due to the following reasons:
The main company is registered in Singapore so to recover 11000 hardly anyone will travel to Singapore to file a case against them in Singapore Court.
The company is selling you E-Zine and you have paid 11000 towards that and not towards the Survey. Your payment of Rs.1000 / 2 surveys is toward the Surveys you fill. So on that ground too the company is safe.
Lets assume something goes wrong and the Indian authorities goes after this whole scheme and in that case the company can easily bail themselves out saying they have not recieved any money from them cause none of the payments is made in their name rather its in the name of the Franchisee who are paid a certain % to forward that to the main distributor and who further pass it to someone else. So the person you can only catch is the person to whom you made the payment. But sadly the problem is that even that person is the victim of this whole scheme.
Yes one do receive a online reciept for the money that one pays from Speak Asia and here is the screenshot. Earlier it was given from "Online Surveys Today" which I doubt that any such company even exists though the address was same as SpeakAsia Online Pte. Ltd. and later it is changed to Haren Ventures Pte. Ltd. but they changed the address to a new address.
So how can someone run such a huge thing without anyone noticing it:
This is India and anything is possible. We easily believe in such schemes and are really fond of such online money making schemes.
I leave the discretion of whether its an opportunity or a scam or something else on the readers to decide.
Well when we search the internet there are several bloggers who have voiced their opinion on whether it is some scam or an opportunity but they all have been bombarded by comments of people who have all the reasons to believe its a genuine scheme and do not want anyone to distrupt the ongoing party.
Some of the ones I found while researching on this are:
2 officials of Speak Asia sent to jail in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Things to know before making money from online surveys firms article appeared on The Economic Times as on 9th May 2011.
Well till the point every one is getting paid who really cares what goes behind the scene. But we feel its important for us to ask some questions if we have reasons to believe that it CAN be scam in the making.
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