Indian authorities have arrested two of the three founders of online survey firm Speak Asia, which is accused of defrauding participants out of an estimated Rs 2,200 crores (approximately EUR 260m).
The company has been under investigation for almost three years, and industry associations ESOMAR and the Market Research Society of India (MRSI) alerted their members and the industry to the company's practices in 2011. Speak Asia's COO Tarak Bajpai and three other executives were then arrested for the alleged scam, which involved charging respondents large sums of money for completing research questionnaires and surveys.
At the end of last month, the firm's co-founders brothers Ram Sumiran and Ram Niwas Pal were also arrested, although the third partner, CEO Manoj Sharma, remains on the run. The trio set up the Speak Asia scheme in 2010, and charged around 2.4 million people Rs 11,000 to become survey respondents, with the promise of Rs 52,000 annual returns.
ESOMAR Director General Finn Raben says companies such as Speak Asia undermine the work done by researchers, not just in India, but globally. Jayant Jain, the President of MRSI, adds: 'Companies like Speak Asia have no connection whatsoever with the real market research profession. Genuine research agencies would at times, reward participants but would never ask for any money in any guise or under any scheme from survey/research participants.'
All articles 2006-21 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.