Updated: August 2, 2019 12:32:39 am
A person professing the Hindu religion in Jabalpur and observing Shravan in a ritually sectarian fashion has turned the spotlight on an India divided, earned widespread derision, and shown that the majority online are not bigoted. He declined to accept a Zomato order delivered by a Muslim, and when he took his peeve to Twitter, the company’s handle responded: “Food doesn’t have a religion. Food is a religion.” In a nation that has weathered centuries of restrictions on commensality, the tweet constituted a resounding affirmation of modernity. The company’s CEO joined in the conversation, sticking up for diversity and stating that he was not “sorry to lose any business that comes in the way of our values.” Reportedly, he supported the actions of his staff and assured them that they would not have to knuckle under to customer demands that were racial or attacked diversity.
As the conversation proceeded, though, it may have become obvious that standing up to bigotry may actually be good for business. While a small minority supported the actions of the peeved customer in Jabalpur, the volume of derision he has earned drowned out their voices. Critics pointed out that to retain ritual purity, he would have to take absurdly extreme precautions. He would have to check if his food was cooked by co-religionists, and that the delivery executive’s vehicle did not run on fuel imported from a Muslim nation. At the same time, Zomato received congratulatory messages from all quarters, including politicians, businessmen and influencers, for defending the idea of a diverse India. Standing up for one’s principles, it appears, is not necessarily detrimental to business.
India’s corporate culture is not celebrated for being led by liberal principles. On the contrary, it is widely criticised for cronyism, for seeking patronage from power and safe markets among majorities. Against that backdrop, Zomato’s moral determination to hold the line stands out in sharp relief. It has also busted the stereotype that young digital companies are actuated purely by the profit motive in the marketplace, and by the conservative views of deracinated techies in the boardroom. And it has answered one of the oldest questions about capitalism: Does morality matter in business? It does. Two tweets have won the company more goodwill than an expensive ad campaign would have. More significantly, they have gone some way in reaffirming public faith in the value of decency.
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