Zomato says it’s impossible to factor in veg and non-veg preferences into delivery logistics

Holy smokes.
Holy smokes.
Image: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
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Food-delivery app Zomato has found itself in the eye of a religious storm—again.

Yesterday (Aug. 11), news agency ANI reported that some of Zomato’s delivery personnel were protesting in the Howrah area of Kolkata, the capital city of the eastern state of West Bengal, against being forced to handle food orders containing pork and beef.

While Hindu among them objected to delivering beef dishes, Muslims protested against pork.

The cow is considered sacred by sections of Hindus and, hence, eating its meat is prohibited. Islam, on the other hand, deems the pig “impure.” The protestors, who came together in an unusual show of religious solidarity, chanted slogans against Zomato and said the food-delivery company was not paying heed to their demands.

Meanwhile, a Zomato official told Quartz that it was logistically impossible to differentiate delivery partners based on their religious and food preferences:

In a country as diverse as India, it is impossible to ensure that vegetarian and non-vegetarian preferences are factored into delivery logistics. Delivery partners are unequivocally made to understand the practical nature of the job as they choose to enter the workforce. All our partners understand this fully. There is a small group of partners in Howrah who have raised concerns and we are looking to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. All our other partners are active in Kolkata and delivering food as always.

The food-delivery app signs up delivery partners—those capable of riding a motorcycle—in a gig economy set up. The riders are not employees of Zomato, and their contracts typically give both the delivery partner and company the freedom to end the working relationship at will.

Fake protest?

On Twitter, at least one user claimed the Kolkata incident was a case of “fake protest,” saying there were no restaurants on Zomato’s delivery app that delivered beef or pork dishes in the Howrah locality.

Nonetheless, #ZomatoUninstalled was trending on the microblogging website. This was twice in less than two weeks that this hashtag found its way to the top trends in India.

Twice bitten

Barely 10 days ago, Zomato was caught in another controversy over religion. On July 30, a Hindu customer cancelled an order that was to be delivered by a Muslim rider because the customer believed it went against his faith. He took to Twitter to complain against Zomato for not refunding Rs237 ($3.43) for his cancelled order.

The food-delivery app—backed by UberEats, its rival in India—spoke out against such a stand, saying “food doesn’t have a religion, it is a religion.”

Other companies like Ola have also faced backlashes on social media for speaking out against religious prejudice.