Zomato rolls back green uniform for veg deliveries after criticism

Zomato rolls back green uniform for veg deliveries after criticism

New Delhi | Facing a huge backlash over plans for separate green uniforms for a new vegetarian-only food delivery service, Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal on Wednesday said the company will roll back the plan, and all delivery persons will continue to sport the current red shirts/t-shirts.

Goyal rolled back the green-coloured 'Pure Veg' fleet for delivering orders from vegetarian-only restaurants in less than 24 hours of the announcement as it had sparked widespread criticism and some praise on social media.

"While we are going to continue to have a fleet for vegetarians, we have decided to remove the on-ground segregation of this fleet on the ground using the colour green. All our riders -- both our regular fleet, and our fleet for vegetarians, will wear the colour red," Goyal said in an update post on X, formerly Twitter.

He explained that the fleet meant for vegetarian orders would not be identifiable on the ground but would show on the Zomato app and assured customers that their veg orders would be served by the Veg Only fleet.

"This will ensure that our red uniform delivery partners are not incorrectly associated with non-veg food, and blocked" by gated communities, he said.

"Our riders' physical safety is of paramount importance to us. We now realise that even some of our customers could get into trouble with their landlords, and that would not be a nice thing if that happened because of us."

While the announcement was generally welcomed, some still had doubts. "Question - two orders that could fit in one box will now be delivered in two boxes by two different delivery partners. who bears the cost of this inefficiency?" one user asked.

More than one-third of India's 140 crore people are estimated to be vegetarian.

Elaborating on the rationale behind the the rollback, Goyal said this will ensure that Zomato's red uniform delivery partners are not incorrectly associated with non-veg food, and blocked by any RWAs or societies during any special days.

Further, he emphasised, "Our riders' physical safety is of paramount importance to us", and added, "We now realise that even some of our customers could get into trouble with their landlords, and that would not be a nice thing if that happened because of us".

He concluded the long post on X by thanking netizens for their input as he said, "You made us understand the unintended consequences of this rollout. All the love, and all the brickbats were all so useful - and helped us get to this optimal point".

Goyal's announcement on Tuesday met with criticism from several quarters that the new service can lead to discrimination.

Journalist Fatima Khan in a post on X said: "There have been multiple instances of people rejecting food deliveries because the delivery agent was a Muslim. The argument used by them was also 'we didn’t want our food purity to be tarnished'. I won't be surprised if the 'pure veg' Zomato initiative leads to more discrimination".

Terming the move as casteist, Dalit writer and activist Shalin Maria Lawrence said, "Deleting the App. I will never use Zomato again. This is Casteist and criminal. Hope someone files a case on them".

The move had its supporters as well who said the new service would help them easily locate vegetarian-only restaurants in the Zomato app and avoid any possibility of food getting mixed up.

In a long late-night post on X on Tuesday, the Zomato CEO said the food delivery platform will "roll it back in a heartbeat", in case it witnesses significant negative social repercussions arising from the move.

Goyal had also sought to allay concerns expressed by some users that some societies and RWAs may not allow Zomato's regular fleet to enter after the launch of the "Pure Veg Fleet" in India for its pure vegetarian customers.

"There's an opinion that some societies and RWAs will now not let our regular fleet in. We will stay alert for any such cases and work with these RWAs to not let this happen. We understand our social responsibility due to this change, and we will not back down from solving it when the need arises," Goyal said.

He elaborated upon the reason behind the introduction of the company's "Pure Veg Mode" service.

"But why did we need to separate the fleets? Because despite everyone's best efforts, sometimes the food spills into the delivery boxes. In those cases, the smell of the previous order travels to the next order and may lead to the next order smelling of the previous order. For this reason, we had to separate the fleet for veg orders," the Zomato CEO said.

He further emphasised that the new service strictly serves a dietary preference irrespective of a person's religion or caste.

"I would like to repeat that this feature strictly serves a dietary preference. And I know there are a lot of customers who would never order food from a restaurant which serves meat, irrespective of their religion/caste," Goyal said.

He also informed that participation in the company's veg delivery fleet will not discriminate on the basis of its delivery partner's dietary preferences.

He concluded the post by promising that Zomato will roll back the Pure Veg Mode service in the event of significant negative social repercussions.

"And I promise, that if we see any significant negative social repercussions of this change, we will roll it back in a heartbeat," Goyal said.

He announced the launch of a "Pure Veg Mode" service on Tuesday to cater to customers who have pure vegetarian dietary preferences.

Goyal cited feedback from vegetarian customers as the reason for the launch of the new service and informed that the online food delivery platform is also introducing a "Pure Veg Fleet" in India for customers who follow a 100 per cent vegetarian diet.

In a series of posts on X, Goyal stated that India has the highest percentage of vegetarians globally, and these new features were launched based on their feedback.

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