About 5 years ago, in an Indian middle class household, ordering meal delivered from restaurant was an event in itself.
After a healthy debate of 5-10 minutes on whether to physically visit the restaurant or make peace with yesterday’s leftovers, there’s a consensus taken before going for the “home delivery” option. Once decided, one member would bring the stack of restaurant pamphlets (collected for years and stored in a safe, convenient place) and place them on the dining table. You decide on the menu, gauge everyone’s likes and dislikes and finally make a call to the restaurant. Chances are, the restaurant has been closed and you may have to repeat the process with another pamphlet.
With the rise of food delivery apps and the nation’s embracing of cheap smartphones and cheaper data, this story almost feels like childhood nostalgia which we would probably narrate to our kids. From bachelors living alone in a new city to a family welcoming large group of guests in small town, everyone has grown to adopt to the new way of “home delivery” : now in the hands of “food aggregators”, as they are called – namely Zomato, Swiggy, Faasos and the relatively new Uber Eats. Ordering food is no longer an event – it’s just part of daily life. To some, almost a necessity.
Like the other aggregator industry growing in the taxi business (Uber, Ola), what truly prompt people into installing and registering on these apps were the heavy discounts on offer in the initial days. You were basically getting free meals for the first 5 orders with every account you create, and on every app you choose. Users with less inclination towards technology were promptly trained by their tech-inclined counterparts and it didn’t take the nation long to turn this business into a multi-million dollar industry.
But, as the exponential market growth brought its fair share of challenges – like improving operational efficiency, addressing hygiene concerns and maintain high standards of delivery executives ; recent developments suggest an entirely new challenge posing in front of these companies. Something seemingly out of the blue, but dealing with which may have major implications. And for now, it’s the market leader Zomato which is bearing the biggest brunt.
THE GREAT INDIAN CHALLENGE
To the uninitiated, Zomato has been gaining major traction both online and offline for all the wrong reasons. On 31st July, A Twitter User complained to their official handle about the delivery boy alloted being a “non-hindu”, and he wanted another rider (from his religion, obviously) to deliver his food. The handle, and company’s founder Deepinder Goyal responded. And out of nowhere, all hell broke loose.
On one end, Zomato received praises from verified personalities and while on the other,an army of accounts subscribing to the ideology that the user in question was trying to propagate flooded social media with boycott hashtags, prompting users to uninstall the app. Uber Eats, its fellow rival who retweeted Zomato’s in a rare display of support, also faced some of the burns.
As the trend started fading, the company had to brace with yet another revolt on 11th August. This time from its delivery executives in West Bengal.
In the midst of an economy that has stagnated the most enormous industries in the nation, here is one which promises potential. It is at least relevant enough to warrant “outrages” and “offense”. It has created jobs for thousands of youths – right from the delivery guy selling it, to the qualified teams in its head offices solving its operational challenges. And yet, the roadblock to this progress is still that staunch, unflinching mindset which wants everything to be aligned to their standards and idealogies.
Once you stop looking for problems and search for the solutions, you will find it right in front of you. Worried about the religious inclination of a person assigned to deliver a fully packaged food at your doorstep at a discounted cost? You can go back to those pamphlets you’ve been saving all these years and demand for your preferences while you pay the full amount along with a delivery charge. And if preserving your idealogies is important over having a livelihood, you can walk out and settle for the restaurant which won’t “force” you to deliver food that is never meant for you to eat.
“Force” is a word funnily used in both these scenarios. You are forced, neither to use these services, nor to be a part of it. It’s clear to all parties that the basic ethos of these aggregators is to include all varieties of food catering to all kinds of customer needs, with the help of a staff selected based on competency and assigned with an aim to assure the lowest delivery time. Food may or may not have a religion, but having the food delivered to you, certainly has nothing to do with it. Imagine people having religious preferences on the courier guy delivering your letter, the cab driver taking you to your temple, or the Parliamentarian representative of your area. Oh wait, the latter actually happens.
Zomato’s social media has a special place in my heart. Look through their timeline and you’d find some genuinely hilarious and creative ads.
In the past, the company has acted responsibly towards some valid criticism like the time when the video of a delivery executive eating packaged food went viral. The response and immediate measures were promptly followed. If the public outrage over such petty issues continue, Zomato and other brands will be forced to bring more complications in its operations in an attempt to address such concerns.
This recent outburst has yet again shown that the nation deals with a large chunk of irresponsible netizens who find joy in generating negative buzz for a brand. It also helps that it literally takes just few clicks to uninstall an app – the digital way to revolt whenever a brand offends you. But in doing so, you might be contributing in denting a market which has made our lives so easier and food so affordable.
Then again, who are we kidding. If a major promotional offer is rolled out which significantly undercuts the other apps on your phone, offense would take a backseat.