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The SpeakAsia Story: E-commerce Innovation or Fraud?

Zafar Anjum | Jan. 17, 2014
Has SpeakAsia, a Singapore-registered company, taken the concept of e-commerce and social media too far? The company has run afoul of the Indian government, with its assets frozen, officials arrested on charges of fraud and money laundering in India to the tune of US$ 368 million. In an exclusive interview with Computerworld Singapore, the company’s embattled CEO Manoj Kumar Sharma explains what went wrong with his company in India.

While the fate of SpeakAsia hangs in balance, Sharma says he will keep on fighting for justice. "I am not worried about myself," he says. "I am worried about India and whether the system will allow new businesses to flourish in the country."

Now the courts in India will decide whether SpeakAsia is a Ponzi scheme. The Mumbai Police's EOW has worked hard on the case for more than two years, despite having a general shortage of manpower in the disposal of fraud cases[8]. Unfortunately, things often move slowly in India and as an EOW official told media, the conviction rate is quite low. Cases filed in 1991-2001 are being heard now. So, it might take a while before we hear the end of this matter.[9]

(EOW in Mumbai did not respond to our calls)

 

[1] "Speak Asia is not registered in India so we cannot do any investigation against it. MCA (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) does not have any database of the company," Corporate Affairs Secretary D K Mittal told reporters on 9 June 2011. http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/govt-lacks-authority-to-probe-speak-asia-flaws-111060900176_1.html

[2] http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/roc-probes-speak-asia-to-submit-report-by-july-10-111070300065_1.html

[3] Speak Asia had refused to divulge the names of companies from which it earned revenue by conducting surveys, reported The Business Standard on 8 June, 2011.  "We have been doing commissioned reports. However, it would not be possible to share names of the company due to non-disclosure agreement with clients," Speak Asia India Chief Executive Officer Manoj Kumar said. http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/speak-asia-refuses-to-disclose-names-of-survey-clients-111060800233_1.html

[4] Speak Asia to move court against bank accounts' freezing http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/speak-asia-to-move-court-against-bank-accounts-freezing-111052700138_1.html

[5] Sharma likens a factoral organization to a company that maintains a very skeletal structure and conducts its business by outsourcing all its work to different organizations.

[6] Direct selling industry welcomes Speak Asia probe http://www.business-standard.com/article/technology/direct-selling-industry-welcomes-speak-asia-probe-111052200036_1.html

[7] 'Panelist' of Speak Asia's multi-level scheme held http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/-panelist-of-speak-asia-s-multi-level-scheme-held-111073100040_1.html

[8] "With just 76 officials and a staff of 176, EOW is regularly pursuing its proposal of deploying an additional 50 officials and staff. The agency's units include those for banking, housing, cheating, job rackets, shares, stamps, investor-related frauds under the Maharashtra Protection of Interests of Depositors Act, multilevel marketing and intellectual property right. It also has separate units for training, research and intelligence." BS. http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/personnel-expertise-crunch-hurts-mumbai-eow-113122100593_1.html

[9] EOW filed charge sheets in 80 cases in 2010, 84 cases in 2011 and 122 cases in 2012. The official added in 2012, a proposal was sent to the state law and judiciary department for the establishment of a special court to try EOW cases. However, this is yet to be cleared. http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/personnel-expertise-crunch-hurts-mumbai-eow-113122100593_1.html

 

 

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