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Exclusive: Protest by Zomato delivery partners has nothing to do with food, religion or beliefs, says founder Deepinder Goyal

Sulekha Nair

Zomato delivery partners in Kolkata went on strike from 12 August protesting against delivering beef and pork contending that doing so hurts their religious sentiments.

Deepinder Goyal, founder of Zomato, in a letter to his staff, explained the issue, what sparked it off and how the order volumes are the 'best' for it in the sector.

Here is the full text of Goyal's letter to Zomato staff:

Team

I am sure many of you have seen or heard about, especially on social media, coverage of protest by a few delivery riders in Howrah, West Bengal.

The coverage has been riddled with misinformation and hyperbole. While we will keep doing our best to make sure the right information is available and the coverage is accurate, we can't control deliberate and some misinformed narratives in media. During such times, it is important for the Zomato team to know the truth, more than anyone else.

This 'protest', confined to a handful of delivery partners, is limited to the Howrah area of Kolkata and not across West Bengal as some wildly exaggerated reports make it out to be. The issue was primarily related to a recent rate card correction in that area, something we routinely do.

We start a city with an initial, fixed payment per order (or per day) to our delivery partners, which provides them a certain amount of earnings per week/month. After a few months, as our order density increases, and their work becomes more efficient, their monthly/weekly income increases €" so we "correct" the rate cards. We also move from a fully fixed rate card to a fixed + variable rate card to make sure that our delivery partners make more money if they provide better services to our customers. Our delivery partners keep earning the same amount of money as before after the rate card correction, and our unit economics become better, making the business more sustainable. This allows us to expand and continue to create more employment opportunities for more delivery partners.

All this while, the choice to work with Zomato or not, lies with the delivery partner. We cannot and do not force anyone to do anything €" the fundamentals of 'at-will' employment are at work here.

Occasionally, a handful of delivery riders don't understand the rate card corrections and start protesting against the change. In this case in Howrah, instead of constructive engagement with their local Zomato execs, these riders approached a local politician and deliberately framed the issue incorrectly.

We know this because we took a look in our order database and there were zero orders from local homes for any item containing pork in the last three months in that entire area. There was one order of a food item containing beef but the customer cancelled that order before it was executed, let alone delivered. While I wanted to give you the facts about what was ordered€"or not ordered by households in that area€"that is actually besides the point.

When delivery partners voluntarily sign up with us, we make it very explicit that they have to deliver all kinds of food that the customers in their region might choose to order. Our restaurant partners prepare all their menu items with great care and package them to make sure there is no food exposed or contaminated. And it is the job of all delivery partners to make sure the food that is packed is delivered untouched. There is never a moment when anyone outside of the restaurant kitchen is actually coming in contact with any food. So this alleged protest has nothing to do with food or religion or beliefs.

We firmly believe it is a slippery slope to conflate meaningful work and livelihood opportunities with false outrage about religion and personal food choices. Everyone has the right to work where they are most comfortable and perhaps the food services business is not for those who don't want to be even near certain foods.

We are also glad to see many news organisations and individual journalists speak up including on social media.

Continue doing the good work, team. Our order volumes are now reportedly the highest in our sector, our monthly burn rate is now in the 20s, and our customer, restaurant and delivery partner satisfaction index at an all-time high. All because of the good work done by you, our 200,000 delivery partners, and our 100,000 restaurant partners. In the middle of all this, it is important for us to ignore the noise, not get distracted, and continue focusing on producing the best work of our lives.

Happy Independence Day.

Deepi

Also See: As Zomato executives protest against pork, beef delivery in Howrah, doubts raised on charges against app

Zomato row: Food aggregator app is right to call out bigotry, but its own virtue-signalling raises problematic questions

Food delivery platform Zomato shuts down bigotry on social media, says food doesn't have religion after customer seeks non-Muslim rider

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