speak-asia-online-logoWhen you run a questionable business model and run into problems, if you’re big enough, the resulting storm of negative publicity and deterioration of company operations usually results in an avalanche of lies, misinformation and distortion.

Standard modus operandi under such conditions are that the company and it’s members accuse critics of lying, question their motives, cry unfair persecution and claim to be the only reliable source of information regarding company operations.

In the case of Speak Asia, this is no different.

In light of Speak Asia’s bank accounts being frozen yesterday and numerous government investigations launched last week, the commentary and accusations coming out of Speak Asia against its critics are flying left right and centre.

And if there wasn’t millions of dollars on the line and over two million members involved, it’d all be quite amusing.

As a reference to counter all the crap being published by the company, today I thought I’d take some time to directly address the recurring themes and points of defense I’ve encountered from Speak Asia and its members.

First and foremost my attention is directed to the open letter Chairperson and Speak Asia CEO Harendar Kaur (photo right) published yesterday on the Speak Asia website.

Kaur opens her letter by claiming that Speak Asia ‘are poised to take the Brand into its India based operations phase‘.

To date, there has been absolutely no indication or proof of this, or a move towards this taking place.

In a press release made last Friday, Speak Asia claimed they were

approaching and evaluating various other banks in Singapore from where we will soon be able to disburse the payments to all panellists.

Following the Singapore bank account being frozen, Speak Asia has made no attempt to source an alternative in India, instead attempting to establish new financial operations in Singapore.

There is absolutely no indication or proof to the contrary that Speak Asia has any plan to relocate to India. Indeed the fact that Speak Asia is Singapore based has been a major contributing factor to the slow reaction and time taken to investigate the company and it’s business operations.

A move to India would remove this barrier and be disastrous for Speak Asia under the current regulatory climate surrounding the company.

Kaur then moves onto what has become the primary argument in dismissing media reports containing negative information about Speak Asia.

The vicious media disinformation campaign (is) prompted by business rivalry.

This business rivalry is claimed to stem from the initial expose by Star News TV channel’s ‘Headlines Today’ show. Speak Asia claim that Star TV’s recently launched entry into the market research sector under ‘Star Panel’, is what directly fuelled Star’s investigation into Speak Asia.

Whilst as a business decision this might very well be true. The fact remains that it is Speak Asia’s business model that provided the bulk of the ‘Headlines Today’ report.

The Speak Asia business model pays peanuts for conducting surveys and instead, if panelists wish to make any sizeable income at all, they are encouraged to signup new members.

This and this alone is the focal point of the Star TV news report, government investigations and negative media coverage.

What Star TV and Star Panel are up to does not change Speak Asia’s recruitment based business model and its ultimate unsustainability in the long term.

Anyone falling back on the claim that this is a giant conspiracy launched against Speak Asia by Star TV is merely attempting misdirection without addressing the business model and should be dismissed as such.

Kaur goes onto claim then that the reason the United Overseas Bank of Singapore (UOB) closed their accounts was due to ‘the media noise‘.

Incorrect. Why would the Indian media have any influence or authority over a Singapore bank. What exactly would the UOB be worried about seeing as Speak Asia has no panelists or public image in Singapore?

Indeed the only relationship between Speak Asia and Singapore is purely financial, leaving the decision by the UOB obviously relating to protecting the bank itself.

Protecting it from what? Well, with five Indian regulatory departments having launched investigations into Speak Asia over the past week… you tell me? Surely this activity hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Singaporean regulatory counterparts.

Kaur continues, once again blaming the media for Speak Asia’s woes;

This has been a most disrupting experience for us ALL and we are MOST concerned about the disruption to your bank accounts and/or finances, that these actions prompted by the malicious media activity, thereby forcing the authorities have caused to us.

Malicious, really?

The reports against Speak Asia directly attack the business model, of which the media has absolutely no control over.

Other than Speak Asia itself, nobody does.

Given that this is what is being heavily criticised in the media (and indeed on this very blog) how can Kaur claim the reporting to be malicious?

Furthermore the insinuation that the media reports are what ‘forc(ed) the authorities have caused to us‘ (I assume she means come after us) is hilarious.

The media reported on the business model of Speak Asia which inturn resulted in regulatory action.

Are the media to blame or the dodgy business model? No dodgy business model, no media report!

Finally Kaur ends with a rallying call of support to Speak Asia members;

The entire company and its management is HERE TO STAY and are fighting, for our Panellists, Staff and Vendors and their families.

Emotional, yes… but substance? Zero.

Should the authorities deem otherwise, Speak Asia management have absolutely no say in whether the organisation is operating legally or not. And they’re certainly not ‘fighting for their panellists, staff and vendors‘, they’re fighting to stay in business, to keep the pyramid scheme going and continue to extract the lucrative money flowing out of the top.

Anything else is just emotive language attempting to appeal to the more uneducated and easily led members of the Speak Asia memberbase.

Unfortunately this memberbase also happen to have swallowed the kool aid and are they themselves running about the internet spouting all sorts of nonense pertaining to Speak Asia.

A great example is the commentary following the Rediff Business article ‘Why Speak Asia seems to be like a Ponzi scheme‘ published on May 26th.

At the time of publication 83 comments have been left by both those supporting and those against Speak Asia. Unfortunately little of what the supporters have claimed holds up to any scrutiny, and indeed logic itself.

Gaurang Patel writes;

Why no word about any other schemes like Ram Survey & numerous others who don’t care even to come out & face the media as Speak Asia has done.

Speak Asia is planning to launch its own Tv Channel & looking at their member size some news channel like star news,aajtak,cnbc have started calling them ponzi, illegal schemes.

The first point is easily addressed in that it’s taken over a year for the authorities to launch investigate Speak Asia’s actions, most likely due to the scope of the business (over two million panelists last I checked).

No doubt in time as investigations set possible precedents for further actions, the smaller copycat companies themselves will be dealt with.

As for the TV channel claim that keeps surfacing, what possible use would Speak Asia have for a TV channel and how are they going to get a network license to air it?

The claim that the only reason the media are interested in Speak Asia due to its size are also easily dismissed. It’s true that Speak Asia are the largest survey company operating in India, but that doesn’t change their business model.

Naturally with growth comes increased scrutiny but it’s not like the fact that Speak Asia’s business model is unsustainable has simply been made up.

PRADS B writes;

All busniesses are ponzi schemes. Tell me one busniess which will last if there are no new customers or existing customers don’t buy again.

All businesses need new entrants for which the entire marketing business is dependent on.

Sorry what, all businesses are ponzi schemes? The comparison here is mind boggling. Coming from a panelist perspective, where are the customers?!

Obviously Speak Asia will need to attract customers as a business to commission surveys from – but panelists are paid out only a fraction from this action. Instead, the bulk of payouts are from joining fees paid by new members (remember, panelists can only earn up to $20 a week completing surveys).

As for entrants, businesses certainly don’t need new entrants coming in to remain viable. If you’re selling a repeat consumable successfully then unless you were growing the business, why would you need new entrants?

Gems Bond writes;

Much of the disinformation against SpeakAsia is because those who are speaking against it have just not spent enough time to understand it or have done so with an inherent bias against SpeakAsia. The terminology used by SpeakAsia viz.

Panelists, Surveys, e-Zine, e-Wallet too is a bit tedious to understand in the beginning.

These persons may or may not be members of SpeakAsia but it is easy to see that the only reason they failed to make any money was because of a failure on their part to understand the business model, esp. the way the referral system works.

The primary mode of making money in SpeakAsia is by filling out surveys. The secondary mode is to have new members join SpeakAsia

Not understanding the Speak Asia business model is a common method of defense but unfortunately it falls completely flat. The Speak Asia business model is ridiculously easy to understand.

You pay money to join Speak Asia and then you have the option of getting paid peanuts to complete surveys or big money for recruiting others. The more you recruit, the bigger your payouts.

It’s not rocket science people and claiming that surveys is the primary mode of making money in Speak Asia is a flat out lie.

Ultimately at the bottom of the Speak Asia pyramid are the naive and gullible and it it these people who are going to lose the most, and it’s not just a financial loss either.

Take Jayesh Patel for example, he claims to have ‘been with the company (Speak Asia) for four months‘;

I paid the requisite registration fee of Rs 11,000, filled 16 survey forms and even enrolled three members. My account with the firm shows I have earned Rs 8,000.

However, I do not think I will get the money. This company seems to be fake. I am scared of facing the people I have registered as their money is at stake too.

Then there’s┬áKasif Sheikh who has ‘been with the company for two months‘;

I invested Rs 11,000, filled eight survey forms and enrolled four people. My account balance is Rs 4,000.

If the bank has closed its account, it is highly unlikely that I will get my money back. It is not just about me. The four whom I got enrolled, blame me for the fiasco.

Both panelists uncomfortably highlight the often overlooked social costs of scams like Speak Asia. It’s not just the individual money lost, often is the case that entire┬ácommunities are left devastated.

Finally I’ll leave you with the other side of the fence, the Speak Asia member so deluded and desperate to believe in the company that absolutely nothing anyone says or does will have any impact on their mindset.

Deepti Shukla, a 26 year old housewife ‘joined Speak Asia in December‘.

I studied the company in detail before investing my hard-earned cash. I refuse to believe the firm is run by frauds.

We received a mail from Speak Asia on Thursday about the frozen accounts and what it is doing to tackle it. The company just needs time.

Time to do just what is anyone’s guess. Best of luck Shukla, you’re going to need it.