New Delhi: Following the fracas after a customer in Gujarat refused food delivered by Zomato through a Muslim boy, the eateries aggregator’s woes know no end. Restaurateur and Indian School of Business alumnus Raghunandan S Prasad has written a stinging open letter addressing Zomato founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal who had, a couple of days ago, invited the ire of eatery owners by sending them a mail threatening them of consequences if they did not withdraw from a ‘movement’ of under-rating his business.
Prasad wrote, “I remember in your early days when you came on board and started getting people to rate my work. Imagine if I got the public to rate your CEO or your employees on how they did their job.”
“It’s nice that you got customers actively involved with performance improvements but that is largely an internal matter,” Prasad continued, “we have our own mechanisms to get their feedback and although customer satisfaction drives the industry you have no right to display the matter with so much scrutiny and bias to public eyes.”
One may recall here that after the customer in Ahmedabad had refused the food, the official handle of Zomato had lectured him and others, “Food has no religion. Food is a religion.”
“I knew things would go wrong when you changed your rating system a few years ago. I had sent you an email then asking you to explain your new rating system; you gave a vague response mentioning a percentile grade system with ‘complex algorithms’ that were too intricate to explain to lowly restaurateurs,” Prasad wrote, dealing with Goyal’s now infamous egotism.
“Whatever it was, my rating fell by 3 points and places like Vidhyarthi Bhavan and other legendary places just went up a few notches,” Prasad noted.
“You were setting the rules for the industry,” Prasad wrote to Goyal, adding, “No one would take your app seriously if beloved places were given a lower rating. No one cares about a new place though. Customers can just write it off as a sh**ty place and not give a damn, and you can in turn make money from new restaurants who want to change that perspective by advertising with you.”
“Your response to the rating query was cold and indifferent,” Prasad noted.
The restaurateur wrote further, “Much like the way you responded now, to the gold fiasco. Until yesterday you rubbished off our protest and when you found that we #logged out, you sent a threatening mail to ‘partners’ (mind you, we are not your partners. We are your customers. You are a glorified broker who takes all the credit for our product which we so laboriously sell to our actual customers).”
Prasad explained to Goyal where the latter had gone wrong: “While all other aggregators were apologising and feeling guilty for hurting the restaurant fraternity, you tightened the rules of your delivery platform, imposing huge penalties on customers/restaurants if they didn’t obey your rules. All in the name of serving your customers? Sorry they never became your customers. You are merely a delivery agency. It is not your product. Just do your job and deliver the food. Try not to eat it on the way.” The last sentence was a taunt, reminding the Zomato CEO of another controversy where one oc its delivery boys had devoured the food meant for a customer.
“You sent a cold and threatening mail about how there would be consequences for joining the movement , you said we had to give a 45 days notice. You ensured legal action against us for opposing you,” Prasad wrote.
Elaborating on how Zomato was brazening it out, Prasad said, “You called us out for cartelising ? What about you? You created this whole price war and mess.”
“Despite your enormous funding you haven’t made a single buck in profit ever and you question us? Tell us how to run our business and ask us to reduce our operating costs?” Prasad exclaimed.
Putting the B2B transaction between restaurants and aggregators in perspective, Prasad wrote, “We are customers, we pay you 45k (Rs 45,000) for gold subscription. You are providing a service to us, lest you forget it. You promised it would be a very exclusive service and would have a choice few customers and restaurants in the program, but you didn’t honor your word.”
“For the seller to be so contractually binding means only one thing. You need us way more than we need you.”
“Today after your investors got wind of the sh*t, and ordered you to shut gold down or change it drastically you sent us all ‘personal mails’ asking to reconcile.”
Goyal’s flawed business model did not stop there, according to Prasad. “But your next big plan is infinity which will hurt us even more,” Prasad wrote.
“Zomato is a leech,” Prasad said, adding, “Sucking the life of the industry, it needs to be deep fried and dumped in the bin because we actually take our food seriously.”
“You are not fooling anyone. You are not dealing with sheep. We can smell a wolf from a mile away.”
“A whole fraternity has been pssd off across the entire country! And you have the audacity to call us out for being inconsiderate to our customers?! Zomato has never waited a table in its life or cooked a meal for guests, we know what it means to serve and care of our guests.”
The remaining text of Prasad’s letter to Goyal: “We are generations old, we have given employment to millions . You on the other hand throw your poor delivery boys under the bus when they ask for some basic rights. Mass fire employees for not meeting your targets.”
“We don’t let our employees do anything they dont want to and take care of their interests and beliefs, something you dont seem to understand.”
“You say we have free choice but you have gamed the system with your ratings which make us compete with our neighbors and for a spot in your “collections” which we pay to get on to. You have pitted us against each other and manipulated an entire industry.”
“We have been around since your founders were in diapers.”
“We have grown a whole community and fed the people with love, not discounts. Your discount addiction schemes and promise of profits wont last.”
“You haven’t made any profits yet, we cannot take you seriously. You are not really here to help the industry.”
“The one thing you are wealthy in, is data (which we unwittingly feed you) and borrowed money. All for you to burn. And you scare us with it. You push us to accept your terms because deep pockets and knowledge is powerful. But you abused it, made the very people who feed you fight against each other for the chase of better sales, and jump through your rating hoops.”
“Soon our customers too will see you for what you really are. Your angel investors might not be so generous after that.”