Many on Twitter raised concerns about Zomato failing to employ Tamil-speaking customer support executives, and not training their employees.

Zomato delivery executive riding a bike on the roadImage for representation | PTI
news Social Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 12:58

Restaurant aggregator and food delivery company Zomato has issued a public apology on Twitter after a Tamil Nadu customer took to social media to complain that one of the app’s customer service executives told him that everybody should ‘know little Hindi’, and claimed that it is ‘our national language.’ The customer, Vikash, had reached out to the customer care service to complain about an incomplete order, and shared screenshots of the conversation on Twitter where the Zomato executive had cited a language barrier in getting the issue resolved.

Vikash posted screenshots of his chat with the customer service agent on his handle, showing that he was chatting with the agent to try and get a refund of an item from his order which was not delivered. The customer care agent was to secure a refund after speaking to the restaurant, which is located in Tamil Nadu. After unsuccessful attempts, the agent replied stating that “there is a language barrier.”

“Already tried five times but (there is) language barrier,” the agent said, as per the screenshots. Vikash pointed out that this was not his concern, and that Zomato should hire agents who understand Tamil if they are serving in Tamil Nadu. To this, the agent replied, “For your kind information, Hindi is our national language. So it is very common that everyone should know Hindi little bit.” 

The agent then said that she cannot compensate Vikash as the restaurant was ‘busy’ when she rang them up again. “We are really sorry for the trouble caused but there is no way that we can compensate you with anything except an apology for this unfortunate instance,” the agent wrote. 

This conversation went viral on Twitter, with many social media users calling the Zomato executive’s argument as ‘Hindi imposition’ and shortly, hashtags like ‘#Reject_Zomato’ and ‘#StopHindiImposition’ started trending on Twitter. DMK MP Kanimozhi also tweeted against the Zomato executive’s argument that everyone ‘should know little Hindi.’

“The customer care of some companies operate only in select languages. It should be made mandatory for companies to serve their customers in their local language. A customer doesn’t necessarily need to know Hindi or English. #Hindi_Theriyathu_Poda,” she tweeted.

Shortly after Kanimozhi’s tweet, Zomato issued an official response, in English as well as in Tamil, and stated that they have terminated the customer service agent in question ‘for negligence towards our diverse culture’. The statement added that the termination was in line with Zomato’s protocols. 

“The agent’s behaviour was against the principles of sensitivity that we train our agents for on a regular basis...the agent’s statements do not represent the company’s stance towards language and diversity,” the statement read. 

Zomato also said that it is building a Tamil version of the app, have localised marketing communications in Tamil and are in the process of building a “local Tamil call/support centre in Coimbatore.” 

After Zomato issued a response, many on Twitter questioned why the executive was terminated instead of being sensitised to the issue. Zomato has been operating in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu since 2011. Users have also asked why Zomato has insufficient localised customer support and marketing resources to cater to non-Hindi speaking users. 

Shortly after, Zomato cofounder Deepinder Goyal tweeted that the employee is being reinstated, and that this alone cannot be a reason for the employee's termination. "An ignorant mistake by someone in a support centre of a food delivery company became a national issue. The level of tolerance and chill in our country needs to be way higher than it is nowadays. Who's to be blamed here? On that note, we are reinstating the agent – this alone is not something she should have been fired for. This is easily something she can learn and do better about going forward," he tweeted. 

As per Article 343 of the Constitution, Hindi is one of the 22 official languages in India but not a national language. Even though Hindi remains the most spoken mother tongue in the country, 60% of the population speaks a language other than Hindi. 

Hindi in Devanagari script along with English, were deemed official languages under the Constitution in 1950 which also stipulated that Parliamentary business may be conducted in Hindi or English. 

In January 2010, even the Gujarat High Court had observed that while a majority of the population who speak Hindi may have accepted it as a national language, but officially its not.

Also read: Ground report: Family of murdered factory worker takes on a powerful DMK MP 

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