In 1942, a slogan was made famous by the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin: “Not a step back”. Ni shagu nazad! It did not come from bravery as much as desperation. His Red Army was fighting the Germans in the bloody Battle of Stalingrad in WWII. When the stakes are high, you have to erase that line of retreat. Perhaps that’s what is driving Zomato too.
Otherwise its founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal seems like a nice man. Remember his “food does not have a religion, it is a religion” line? The whole message of oneness in diversity reeked of goodness and accommodation. Then why won’t he give in to restaurateurs’ demands. They have been agitating and hashtagging furiously, asking for food-service aggregators (FSAs) to stop deep discounting for diners, cut down on freebies, and reduce the fee restaurants have to pay to be listed. The restaurant partners seem genuinely anxious.
“Is it fair to destroy an entire industry to benefit the valuation of a couple of companies?” asked one of their representatives at a press conference held in October. This was when both the registered industry associations, The Federation of Hotels and Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI) and NRAI announced that they have joined forces against the “predatory practices” of Zomato and others FSAs.
Negotiations had been on for months and, while other dineout platforms such as Dineout and EazyDiner had modified their terms to mollify the hotels, Zomato kept forging ahead. Not one step back! In August, at the height of this stand-off, the aggregator announced Infinity Dining under their now infamous Gold Membership. Subscribers could order to ‘infinity’, that is order food and drink endlessly for a fixed price.
Restaurateurs saw red and launched the #Logout movement on August 14. Perhaps it was strategically placed before Independence Day, a public holiday which would have given Zomato a good deal of business.
In less than 24 hours, around 1,000 restaurants dropped out of various platforms including EazyDiner, Dineout, Magicpin and Nearbuy, apart from Zomato and, within 45 days o