Zomato scraps green uniform plan amid public backlash

Chief executive Deepinder Goyal admitted that the company had failed to think through the safety implications.

FILE PHOTO: A delivery worker of Zomato prepares to leave to pick up an order from a restaurant in Mumbai, India, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

Pramod Thomas

INDIA’s largest food delivery firm Zomato on Wednesday (20) ditched plans for green uniforms for a new vegetarian-only service, citing concerns the country’s vast vegetarian population might then shun its regular service.

The decision was taken less than 24 hours after Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal announced a green-coloured “Pure Veg” fleet, different from its normal red, to bring orders from vegetarian-only restaurants – a move that sparked widespread criticism and some praise, both mostly on social media.

“This will ensure that our red uniform delivery partners are not incorrectly associated with non-veg food, and blocked” by gated communities, Goyal said on X, announcing the scrapping of the green uniform.

“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,” he said.

More than one-third of India’s 1.4 billion people is estimated to be vegetarian – the world’s largest percentage of people who don’t eat meat or eggs – as they follow diets promoted by groups within Hinduism and other religions.

Some vegetarians choose not to eat in restaurants that also serve meat and don’t rent out houses to meat-eating tenants.

Differing views on food choices have sometimes sparked violence, and the widespread ban on the slaughter of cows – considered sacred by Hindus – effectively prohibits the sale of beef and has triggered attacks against Muslims suspected of illegally slaughtering cows.

Zomato’s move to launch a vegetarian-only delivery fleet drew criticism, including from politicians, on X with users saying it is discriminatory and promoted caste divides.

Supporters praised it saying it would help them easily locate vegetarian-only restaurants in the Zomato app and avoid any possibility of food getting mixed up.

Goyal said Zomato will continue to have a dedicated service for vegetarians but in its usual red-coloured fleet. The decision was taken, Goyal said, after receiving feedback on the move, including “all the love and all the brickbats”.