In a row over a food order that went viral, Zomato today sacked an agent after a customer from Tamil Nadu said he was told to "learn Hindi" when he sought a refund. Hours later, the food delivery app's founder tweeted that the employee had been reinstated and that the "level of tolerance and chill" needs to be much higher in the country.
Zomato founder Deepinder Goyal added, "Tamil Nadu, We love you".
Hashtag "Reject_Zomato" became a top trend when a user, "@Vikash67456607" flagged an unpleasant exchange with the agent.
Customer Vikash alleged that when he called to report a missing item from the food he had ordered, he was told by customer care that it can't be done as "I didn't know Hindi".
"Ordered food in zomato and an item was missed. Customer care says amount can't be refunded as I didn't know Hindi. Also takes lesson that being an Indian I should know Hindi. Tagged me a liar as he didn't know Tamil," he wrote.
He attached screenshots showing the insensitive comments.
"For your kind information, Hindi is our national language. So it is very common that everybody should know Hindi little bit," the customer care executive told Vikash.
Responding to the backlash on Twitter, Zomato said the agent had been sacked, posting with the Tamil greeting 'Vanakkam'.
"We are sorry for the behaviour of our customer care agent, we have terminated the agent for their negligence towards our diverse culture. The termination is in line with our protocols, and agent's behaviour was clearly against the principles of sensitivity that we train our agents for on a regular basis (sic)," said the company in a statement in both English and Tamil.
"This customer care agent's statement does not represent our company's stance towards language and diversity," the company underlined, distancing itself from the actions of the employee.
In the continuing tweet frenzy, company founder Deepinder Goyal called it an "ignorant mistake" and announced that the agent was reinstated.
"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?" he said, adding that it is something the person can learn going forward.
Mr Goyal stressed that the call centre agents are young people and are not experts on languages and regional sentiments.
"Having said that, we should all tolerate each other's imperfections. And appreciate each other's language and regional sentiments. Tamil Nadu - we love you. Just as much as we love the rest of the country. Not more, not less. We are all the same, as much as we are different," he said.
The episode took a political colour with DMK leader Kanimozhi wading into the controversy.
"Tamilians needs no lesson on who is Indian. It's not a must for customer to know Hindi/English. It should be mandatory for support centres to speak in the state's language," said Kanimozhi.
The company said it has roped in well-known Tamil musician Aniruddh Ravichandran as its local brand ambassador.
It further said it is readying a Tamil version of the app and a local Tamil call support centre in also coming up in Coimbatore.