SpeakAsia and Pyramid Schemes

Recruit two friends, they will get their two friends, they will get their two friends, they will get their two friends and eventually the whole planet will work for you.

SpeakAsia was a pyramid scheme which operated around 2010-2011 under the guise of a "multi-level marketing company". Their official website is still online and describes SpeakAsia in vague gibberish as a "unique web 2.0 company that empowers 19 lakh consumers to create and use their collective bargaining power to get unprecedented price advantages in goods and services procured through our portals."

Their modus operandi was paying people Rs. 500 to answer a made-up survey every week. This wasn't free money though; there was a Rs. 11,000 "subscription" to take the survey itself. In theory, you recover your investment within a few months and everything after that is a profit. The thing with pyramid schemes is, the gravy train lasts only as long as the so-called masterminds want it to. The payments suddenly stop and those who don't recover their investments are deservedly left looking like greedy, gullible idiots.

"I was a jobless youth. Thanks to SpeakAsia, I'm now a broke jobless youth."

In SpeakAsia's case, the Mumbai Economic Offences Wing froze all its accounts with the trail leading to money laundered across countries like Singapore, Dubai, Italy, UK, Brazil and others. The gold rush abruptly ended and FIRs against SpeakAsia started popping up all over the country. The official numbers say that 24 lakh investors were conned out of Rs 2,200 crore. The frauds behind the scam are absconding with arrests being made now and then.

Sadly, SpeakAsia wasn't the first of it's kind and definitely isn't the last. Within two years, it managed to bring in Rs. 2,200 crore which goes to show how effective these ponzi schemes still are. SpeakAsia gathered enough money to publish full-page newspaper ads and buy ad spots during IPL to seem more convincing. It takes just five minutes of Googling to figure out such a scam, but the lure of easy money is too tempting to pass up. Investors are encouraged to involve friends and family in it- you get a cut from every subscription brought in, so the more people you bring in, the more you make. Ultimately, the goal shifts to recruiting more people and the "survey" only exists to provide the illusion of a tangible product. People end up investing their life savings in such shit because there's no better advertising than through friends and family.

Trying to convince someone against getting involved in such a scam is a difficult and somewhat scary experience. Existing investors will vehemently defend the scam; their common sense blocked by optimism and delusion. In real life, it leads to raised voices and bitter feelings. Online, it leads to random dickheads calling you "jealous." Bottom line- people believe what they want to believe.

SpeakAsia facebook conversation