Red Uniforms for All: Zomato Ditches Green After Vegetarian Delivery Backlash

Indian food delivery giant Zomato hit a speed bump this week after unveiling a plan for separate green uniforms for riders handling "pure vegetarian" deliveries. The move, intended to cater to vegetarian customers, sparked immediate criticism online, forcing Zomato to backtrack within a day.

At the heart of the controversy lay concerns that the color-coded uniforms could exacerbate social divisions in India, where dietary choices are often tied to caste and religious beliefs. Critics argued that green uniforms might single out non-vegetarian riders, leading to discrimination or even harassment. Zomato's initial announcement, met with "overwhelmingly positive" feedback according to CEO Deepinder Goyal, quickly soured as comments highlighted these potential pitfalls.

The company also faced worries about the impact on its regular delivery fleet. Anxieties arose that red-uniformed riders, the majority, might be unfairly restricted by housing societies or resident welfare associations (RWAs) during festivals or other occasions with vegetarian leanings. Goyal acknowledged this concern, stating, "We now realize that even some of our customers could get into trouble with their landlords."

The about-face came swiftly. Recognizing the potential for social and logistical hurdles, Zomato announced it would maintain a separate vegetarian delivery fleet but ditch the green uniforms. All riders, regardless of the order type, would now wear the company's signature red. While the app would still identify "veg only" deliveries, riders would be visually indistinguishable.

This decision aimed to address the core issues raised by critics. It ensured the safety and fair treatment of all delivery personnel and avoided any unintended consequences for customers residing in sensitive housing societies. However, some commentators pointed out that Zomato was merely masking the underlying concept, with the separate vegetarian delivery fleet still in place.

While the long-term implications of the green uniform fiasco remain to be seen, it has undoubtedly sparked a conversation about the complexities of catering to religious and dietary preferences in a diverse society like India. Zomato, for its part, will likely tread more cautiously when introducing initiatives that touch upon such sensitive social aspects.

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