When Bollywood actor Aamir Khan voiced his concerns about the state of religious intolerance in India and set off a social media firestorm, Snapdeal got caught in the crossfire. Angry consumers threatened to boycott the e-commerce company, which has enlisted Khan as a celebrity pitchman for the past eight months. The critics even managed to pull down the rating of the Snapdeal mobile app on the Google Play Store.
But Snapdeal has found a rather unlikely supporter in the fallout.
Sachin Bansal is the CEO and co-founder of Flipkart, the company Snapdeal is specifically aiming to dethrone in its quest to become India’s largest e-commerce player.
Bansal has good reason to lend his support. His own company dealt with the threat of an app-store rating downgrade earlier this year, after Bansal’s support of the data platform Airtel Zero made him, and Flipkart, a target for critics on the opposite side of the net neutrality debate.
But the discourse between Bansal and Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal hasn’t always been as supportive.
In May, Bansal went on Twitter to take aim at Snapdeal’s Rohit Bansal (no relation), after the latter said in an interview that it’s difficult to find good talent in India.
And in September, Snapdeal CEO Bahl had openly criticized online fashion retailer Myntra—a unit of Flipkart—for moving to a mobile app-only model. ”One thing that really helped our fashion business was Myntra’s app-only strategy,” Bahl told The Economic Times. ”I think it’s the most consumer-unfriendly idea I have ever heard of. Maybe three years later it’s worth a conversation, when [the desktop] PC contribution is even lesser. Even then, it is a conversation still. It’s not a yes or no situation.”
Snapdeal has tried to distance itself from the controversy involving Khan’s recent statements, in which he said he’s been alarmed by the state of religious intolerance in India, and that his wife has wondered aloud whether their family should leave the country because of it.
“Snapdeal is neither connected [to] nor plays a role in comments made by Aamir Khan in his personal capacity,” a company spokesperson told Quartz.
But the rating of Snapdeal’s mobile app fell for a second consecutive day on Nov. 25. The app is now rated at 4.0 on the Google Play Store, down from 4.1 yesterday. Mobile apps of close competitors Flipkart and Amazon are both currently rated at 4.2.