The deal was simple: invest Rs 11,000 (~210 USD) to become a panelist and fill out surveys provided in a set of two every week, then start withdrawing money after eight weeks at the rate of Rs 1000 (~20 USD) every week for a whole year. Initially I discouraged my buddy from investing but after he did so against all my good advice and sat with me dreaming of his 1,500 USD magically mutiplying into more than 18,000 USD by filing out surveys over 12 months, the greed rubbed off on me as well. I threw all caution to the wind and invested all the money I had saved, a paltry sum of 620 USD. In the days that followed we both dreamt of the shiny cars we were about to own in the near future. SpeakAsia was one of the promoters of the famous Indian Premier League cricket tournament and thus gained widespread popularity and trust this year with our cricket-crazy Indian masses.
When I filled out their surveys, I found them to be rather downgraded versions of other surveys I had filled out for some known survey companies. Many a time, it seemed that the surveys were just put together in a hurry. Their language and sometimes their logic seemed messed up. When I talked about this to my friend, whose command over the English language is a bit compromised, he chided me for being pessimistic and reassured me saying that I was being over-cautious.
To my horror, just five weeks after I joined, we learnt that speakasia.com wasn’t sending any more surveys and its business accounts had been frozen by the Singapore government. Soon a legal battle ensued in India as well but like most court cases in India, this one has been on for more than six months now and it doesn’t seem like there will be a resolution anytime soon. How I ruefully remember the money I lost; hard come, easy go.
Its CEO was said to be a Singapore citizen of Indian origin, Ms Harinder Kaur. It was later divulged by the media that the business is actually owned by Podium Ring International Ltd, based in Tortola in the Virgin Islands. Nothing was virginal about this scheme though; apparently the CEOs and secretaries had been put there to conceal the identities of the real owners. Why hide, and why India? Indians have a bit more money than they did in the past and the population is phenomenal…hmmm! Let's see, if lots of Indians put in a small but decent sum each, that would end up being a lot of money indeed.