Why Zomato is in a soup over its celebrity ads

Netizens have called out Zomato for whitewashing the alleged exploitation of its workers in latest glamorous ads.

Zomato delivery boys went on strike in 2019 against unfair work terms.

Zomato is making news, for all the wrong reasons.

The food delivery app’s recent advertisements featuring celebs Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif were meant to promote the company’s quick delivery and thoughtful customer service with the tagline “har customer hai star”, but have instead stirred anger on social media, with viewers pointing to the company’s hypocrisy as it apparently exploits its workers while patting their backs for working without even a minute’s break.

In case you missed the ads, take a look.

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In one, Hrithik Roshan lauds the Zomato delivery boy for his supernatural power of prompt delivery, and offers him a selfie, only to realise that the man has rushed off to deliver his next order, because, of course, ‘har customer hai star’. ‘Ab yahan selfie ke liye rukta, toh next order late ho jaata,’ says the delivery boy, proud of his dedication to his job. On similar lines, the ad featuring Katrina Kaif shows the Zomato delivery boy hurrying to deliver his next order without waiting for Katrina’s offer of cake, because he can’t afford to be late for his next customer.

In truth, Zomato’s workers have made news for their protests over gruelling work hours, job insecurity and poor and inconsistent pay, even as the company showers money on Bollywood stars for ads highlighting its prompt food service by delivery partners.

Twitterati and other social media users have called out Zomato’s attempt to gloss over its treatment of its employees and making a stressful delivery job look glamorous.

In the aftermath of the backlash, Zomato issued a statement on Twitter, acknowledging the “mixed feedback” to its ads, and explaining “the other side of the story”.

The company insisted that its advertisements were “well-intentioned” and were “misinterpreted”. It said it meant to dignify its workers and demonstrate the pride the workers took in serving Zomato customers. And that also, the ads were conceptualised six months ago, before its employees were in the news for unfair work conditions.

The company also said: “As we shared in our quarterly shareholder letter before, we’ve been actively working on this already, and our delivery partner Net Promoter Score (NPS) has increased from -10% to 28% (and continues to rise). We will also, very soon, publish a blog post explaining why we think our delivery partners are fairly compensated for the work/time that they put in.”

It must be pointed out that the first murmurings of protest by the workers broke out in 2019, when Zomato delivery boys went on strike in various cities. Since then, plenty of other incidents involving such deliverymen have made news that highlighted them being at the mercy of their customers and employers.

The majority of critics would, however, tell Zomato that actions speak louder than a statement on Twitter, and the best way to address the situation would be to pay their workers and not celebrities.

Also read: Zomato IPO: What’s on the menu? Should you take a bite?

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