Why marketing to ‘pure vegetarians’ landed this Indian delivery giant in a pickle

Why marketing to ‘pure vegetarians’ landed this Indian delivery giant in a pickle - Opinion and Analysis - News

Zomato’s Controversial Initiative to Cater to Vegetarian Customers in India: A Divisive Move or a Necessary Step?

Zomato’s New Initiative to Attract Vegetarian Customers: Purely Vegetarian Restaurants and Delivery

The Indian food delivery market has witnessed a stirring controversy, with Zomato, a leading food delivery app in India, making headlines with its latest initiative. This move aims to attract vegetarian customers by introducing a curated list of restaurants that exclusively serve “pure vegetarian food.”

The Vegetarian Phenomenon in India: Strict Dietary Preferences

Deepinder Goyal, Zomato’s founder and CEO, announced the plans on Tuesday. According to him, this list would exclude all restaurants that serve any non-veg food item. India holds the record for having the largest percentage of vegetarians in the world. With many following strict dietary laws due to their religious beliefs, this move by Zomato seems to cater to these preferences.

Catering to Strict Dietary Preferences: Dedicated Pure Veg Fleet and Green Uniforms

In order to further cater to these dietary preferences, Zomato has planned to deliver food in a “dedicated pure veg fleet.” The riders for this fleet were supposed to wear new green uniforms instead of the regular red ones. Goyal explained that “this means that a non-veg meal, or even a veg meal served by a non-veg restaurant will never go inside the green delivery box meant for our pure veg fleet.”

Strict Dietary Laws and the Indian Society: Jains, Hindus, and Meat-Eaters

India is home to several religions that require adherence to strict dietary laws. Jains and many Hindus follow a vegetarian diet, based on the principle of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence and respect for all life. Almost 40% of Indian adults claim to be vegetarian, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.

Controversy and Backlash: Alienation, Casteism, and Risk

Despite Goyal’s intentions, Zomato’s plans have received significant backlash on social media. Some criticized the move as ‘casteist,’ as many Hindus from dominant castes tend to be vegetarian, while people from marginalized castes are not. The caste system, although officially abolished in 1950, still exists in many aspects of life and categorizes Hindus at birth based on their place in society.

Other critics also raised concerns over safety for both meat eaters and delivery staff, stating that this move strengthens an artificial divide between vegetarian and non-vegetarian eaters, putting citizens at risk based on their food preferences.

Retreating from the Controversy: Zomato’s Response

Following the outcry, Zomato has rolled back plans to dress riders delivering vegetarian food in green uniforms. Instead, all delivery partners, whether for vegetarian or non-vegetarian food, will wear red uniforms. This change has been made to ensure that the red uniformed riders are not mistakenly associated with non-veg food and face issues from housing societies or other potential threats to their safety.

Goyal also acknowledged the risks faced by meat eaters due to this change, stating that “unsafe and illogical” practices should not be encouraged. He added, “we now realize 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.”

Final Thoughts: Unity in Diversity

In conclusion, Zomato’s move to cater to vegetarian customers in India has sparked a heated debate, highlighting the complexities of dietary practices and societal norms. While this move was intended to cater to a significant portion of India’s population, it has raised concerns about potential divisions and risks involved. It is essential for companies like Zomato to consider the larger implications of such initiatives on society as a whole, balancing the need to cater to diverse preferences with maintaining unity and equality.