Speak Asia came in India in 2010, February, they first gone through the law books and the rules of the land, and then they began market research and analysed about the approach they can make to establish and sustain a business that they are planning to establish and grow in India.Speak Asia began working from April-May 2010 in India.
What is Speak Asia?
Speakasiaonline Pte. Ltd, Singapore (SAOL) is a unique web 2.0 company that empowers 19 lac consumers to create and use their collective bargaining power to get unprecedented price advantages in goods and services procured through portals. The only comparable success in India is the unrelated http://www.echoupal.com/ which provided an improvement in the livelihoods of lakhs of ordinary Indian farmers through its portal.
Speak Asia is owned by a holding company Podium Ring International Ltd , registered in British Virgin Islands, which has been properly declared to ACRA at Singapore. SAOL's online Panelists are interacting daily with SAOL through its management, staff and advisers. Podium Ring is not in the picture for those interactions. The global CEO is Ms. Harendar Kaur supported by Mr. Manoj Kumar CEO-India, Mr Tarak Bajpai COO-India and the Speakasia team.
The most famous example for VOIP is Skype, which was owned by an offshore company in Luxembourg for Tax Planning purposes, like that Speak Asia is also owned by a holding company Podium Ring International Ltd, registered in British Virgin Islands (Documents Attached).
What is the Business of Speak Asia?
Speak Asia is dealing with Panel Business, and Panel Business operates on the lines of multiple exchanges where panel providers are pooled in and the clients can take their pick of the panels based on their profile requirement directly or through brokers. The panel profile can be based on demographics and many other parameters. The selected profiled panel is picked up like in any other exchange and the work is allocated to them. Hence the panels cannot know the clients name directly. (e.g. in a stock exchange we buy stocks but at the time of buying we do not know who is selling those stocks)
This is the company's confidential data, which unfair competitors would dearly love to know; hence the names have not been publicly disclosed .However its books of accounts clearly show the details of income from panel business and the agencies who gave them work.
The company is currently in two domains:
1. The first domain is "precision marketing". In this the company engages in filtered/narrow casting of marketing and sales related services. These services to name a few are providing survey panels, advertising, lead generating and also sales.
2. The second domain is to provide knowledge, information and training to its panelist, for their overall development in order to make them empowered consumers.
Speak Asia is creating a Panelist community of empowered consumers which earns rewards points by participating in companies activities (e.g. surveys filling, product referrals / sales, advertising based surveys, self development training programs ) on the website. The panelist can use these reward points for purchase of products and services from the website. The company's business model is also to make profits from product and service sales. In simple terms its Panelist community "EARNS AND BURNS REWARD POINTS ON THE SAOL PORTAL" Speak Asia gets research done 'on' and 'for' different companies, products and services. Panelists earn reward points (RP) for participating with their focused and valuable opinions in the surveys.
Now about the Business Structure of the Company, Speak Asia is creating a panel community of empowered consumers, which earns rewards points by participating in various companies activities (e.g. e-zine sales, surveys filling, product referrals / sales, advertising based surveys, self development training programs) on the website.
Is company authorised to do Business in India?
Now about weather the company is authorised to do business in INDIA or not, it is to be noticed that online business portals without a PE in India have been legitimately doing business in India since 2000. The largest global, professionals community portal, which is also a web 2.0 "freemium" model is www.linkedin.com (unrelated) and they have approximately 900,000 Indian subscribers, who enlist either free or paid. Subscribers also participate in Polls and carry out other crowd sourcing activities. LinkedIn set up their Indian PE only in 2009 after they had lacs of subscribers from India. Here is the link of the news published in one of the leading newspaper in India.http://www.business-standard.com/ india/news/linkedinsfirst-asia-pac-office-in-india/379799/
To tell further, as per RBI, Permanent Establishment of any foreign company is necessary to do business in India, but there is a clause in the Law books, that this is compulsory only if their product/Ezine is reprinted/ remanufactured/ reassembled in India then its compulsory, else it is not necessary, and in case of Speak Asia its Ezines and sent directly from Singapore through Email.
How do Panelists earn in Speak Asia?
The Panelists earn only in reward points (RP) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reward_points) against marketing activities and research work actively carried out by the panelist. An explanation of the Rewards Points "lifestyle" concept can be found at the unrelated but world famous web portal and internet pioneer, Second life.
Conceptually the web portal user can use these types of reward points for purchase of virtual and in other cases, Real products and services from the website. Earning RP's is similar to other Global portals.
RP payouts happen when the panelist burns those earned reward points for purchase of products and services from the website. The company's business model is to make profits from product and service sales after providing for the cost of servicing the reward points. Speak Asia gets research done 'on' and 'for' different companies, products and services; panelists earn reward points (RP) for participating with their valuable opinions in the surveys.
Payments to the Panelists in India were being made from Singapore through bank TT with the Bank's payment gateway. This facilitates direct money transfer to the accounts of panelists without them having to even visit their banks. Singapore banks comply with the strictest security norms and use Telegraphic Transfer ONLY via RBI registered banks in India. And Remittance made to panelists are legal vide Master Circular No. 01/2010-11 dated 01.07.2010 issued by RBI in respect of Miscellaneous Remittance to India.
How are franchisee and SAOL connected to each other?
The issue regarding Franchisee and if they are authorised representatives of Speak Asia Online Pte Ltd in India, Franchisees/Distributors have a distribution agreement with Global distributor Haren Ventures Pte. Ltd, Singapore (HVP) for selling subscription of the e-zine Surveys Today. SAOL is providing marketing assistance services from Singapore to HVP with the use of its SAOL portal, for which it gets paid by HVP.
The subscription number / code is used for a panelist doing a FREE registration at the SAOL website. The distributors are also required to provide basic training to Panelists for using the SAOL site effectively.
These distributors are the authorised representative of HVP Singapore not SAOL. SAOL is about to set up its PE in India and as on date has only 3 authorised Legal Advisers in India:
1. AK Singh & Co
2. Phoenix Legal
3. KASHISH INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY GROUP
No other legal entity or person is authorised to represent or speak on behalf of SAOL.
Here are the answers from the Speak Asia to the questions raised by media:
1. If it is a collective investment scheme why it's not taking permission from SEBI?
Speak Asia does not run a collective investment scheme. The member panelists may choose to participate in Training; they may promote sales of the "Surveys Today" ezine, work on the website, buy and refer products and services. This does not fall into the category of collective investment scheme. Thus no such permission is required from SEBI. Speak Asia is creating an online Panel community of "Empowered consumers" which earns rewards points (RP's), by participating in various companies activities. e.g. Surveys filling, product referrals / sales, advertising based surveys, self development training programs. This is not a guaranteed return and varies from panelist to panelist based upon their individual efforts.
Speak Asia gets research done 'on' and 'for' different companies, products and services. Panelists earn reward points (RP) for participating with their valuable opinions in the surveys. Thus the panelist gets money in lieu of the surveys they file as per SAOL Terms & Conditions.
Media is false in spreading the rumor of company giving returns on investments, actually there are 3 ways to join and participate on the SAOL portal:
1. To produce an income statement from any of the global top 20 online survey companies, showing an annual income of $1000 or more and join SAOL for free.
2. By appearing and passing a test and an interview one can join SAOL for free.
3. By subscribing to E-zine "Surveys Today" for Rs.6, 000 for 6 months subscription and Rs. 11,000 for a yearly subscription one can join SAOL for free.
e-zine "Survey Today" is a magazine Globally Distributed by Haren Ventures Pte. Ltd Singapore (HVP), which contains information about various products and services and market research techniques etc. The sum of Rs 1,000/- or 6,000/- or 11,000/- that the panelists pay is for various types of subscription of the e-zine "Survey Today" and this is not an investment.
The subscription to the e-zine is only one of the three ways which makes the panelist eligible to join SAOL portal for FREE.
It is entirely the prerogative of the panelist to choose any one of the three ways mentioned above to become a Free panelist at SAOL.
2. Speak Asia is Black Listed in Singapore, then why it is in India?
For SAOL, any issue of non compliance anywhere in the world, is not petty, as no company would like to be listed amongst the non compliant companies.
People have misconstrued the (X) sign placed at the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, Singapore (ACRA) website: http://www.acra.gov.sg/ The reason why SAOL was listed amongst the companies, which were non- compliant, was because the company delayed the filing/submission of the minutes of its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in time. This delay made the requisites of compliance according to Singapore Government "non compliant". It is interesting to note, that one of the media who was saying that Speak Asia Online Pte Ltd is BLACK LISTED in Singapore also has (X) Non Compliant Certificate in ACRA.
However, one can check Speak Asia Online Pte Ltd (Regd No: 200618809D) and STAR REGIONAL (SEA) PTE LTD (Regd No: 199304999D). (Both documents attached along side)
3. Does Speak Asia has any office in India?
Speak Asia does not have its physical office in India. Its business model is such, that it has global partners for call center, Support, Marcom Technology and Training. Contact with them is easily made by Panelists using their control panel system and also by non panelist at the portal.
4. Speak Asia claimed to do surveys for some companies why was it false?
Statement that got Speak Asia into trouble are claims by Mr. Vivek Gautam, SpeakAsia has clients like ICICI, Bata, Airtel etc, but across various parameters company had researched their product/services and Panelists were provided coupons for the Bata project survey. (enclosed its copy along side)
Company had done surveys on these above mentioned companies but not for them. So technically they are not Speak Asia clients.
As part of startup operations, the surveys conducted were for IT system, training of panelists and research work only. So no authorisation is required to conduct such type of market research.
Since there was a miscommunication about the surveys conducted on the above mentioned companies, SAOL India CEO Mr. Manoj Kumar apologized unconditionally in a Press Conference on 15th May, 2011.
Accounts of Speak Asia:
Speak Asia claims to have done a business of 65 Million USD, out of which 52 Million USD have been paid to its Panelists in the form of Reward Points, 68 crore INR has been paid to the Govt. of India in the form of Service tax by its Co-distributor/franchisee/master distributor.
Annual financial results filed by the company thus far are available on ACRA site. The results which are relevant for Speakasia portal is the (1st startup year from May 2010 onwards). It completed full one year of active operations on 31st May, 2011.
Why Speak Asia not paying to its panelists since last few months?
Speak Asia organized GenX consumer bazaar in Goa, in May 2011, and when it was under way on 11th May, 2011, star news showed negative abut company, out of which in panic panelists made a payout requests for its RPs, which was huge pay requests put up simultaneously, so UOB, Singapore closed the accounts of Speak Asia and so payments were stopped. Now the company wants to get registered in INDIA so that it can have its INDIAN bank account and then payments will resume from India itself.
What all Speak Asia done in last few months to get things back on track?
First Speak Asia, called for a press conference on 15th May, 2011 and shown all the business model, documents, and its vision to everyone present, moreover Speak Asia has already approached all legal and governmental authorities in India (such as PMO, Ministries of Finance, Company Affairs, Home Affairs and Law enforcement authorities) through official
communication for presenting our business, financial and legal framework.
After this Speak Asia done something as below to open a Liasion office in India;
1. Establishing a Liaison Office in India (Process and Current status)
a) Application given to Reserve Bank of India
An application has been filed with the Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai through the bank for requisite permission to open a Liaison office. We understand that the applications are considered on case-to-case basis and the permission from Reserve Bank of India generally takes about 4-6 weeks time from the date of submission of application.
b) Registration with Registrar of Companies, New Delhi
Upon receipt of approval from Reserve bank of India, requisite documents have to be filed with Register of Companies for registration of Speak Asia under Companies Act. After scrutiny of documents, the Register of Companies will register the Foreign office and issue the certificate of registration. Thereafter, SpeakAsia can open a bank account and start operation in India. It is trying hard to expedite this activity and will keep you updated on its progress. The payouts from India can only start once bank account is opened and the approvals are given in writing by the authorities.
2. RBI's approval for business model: Further to the order dated 14th July received from Hon. High Court to RBI for a meeting with Speakasia to understand the business model, it has written yet again to RBI asking for a suitable date vide letter dated 21st July (copy of letter attached).
3. Distribution of rewards earned by you: The LCD / LED TV's are already lying at the customs. These goods are held up in Customs in Mumbai due to our bank accounts being frozen. We are incurring huge demurrages on the same. The deliveries will start as soon as the goods are released from customs.
4. Interim orders received from Hon. Andhra Pradesh High Court: Speak Asia has obtained court order for staying any activity by Crime Branch - CID against any of the officials or associates of Speak Asia (copy of order attached). Speak Asia is cooperating with the authorities and ensuring that the business model of Speak Asia is understood by all.
What is the future of Speak Asia?
The company doesn't run on the funds generated by the panel income as the company doesn't charge anything to the panelist so the point of the company surviving ONLY as long as the enrollments are on is not true. Since survey is just one of the activity that a panelist engages in and not the complete bouquet. SAOL has multiple revenue sources like:
Panel sales (surveys)
In future SAOL also plans to add more to its revenue source by joining hands with:
Mobile service provider - Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)
TV Channels and many more…