Yesterday, Danish Sait uploaded a new video—a paid partnership with Zomato—in which he moonlights as a delivery partner for the app to pay tribute to their hard work and resilience. The eight-and-a-half minute video featured Sait donning the red Zomato shirt and delivering food orders to two surprised patrons. But the Bengaluru comedian and actor has now taken down the video, after he came under criticism for misrepresenting the lived experience of Zomato delivery partners, who have complained about the company’s unfair practices as recently as this week.
The move comes after Twitter account @deliverybhoy—apparently run by an anonymous food delivery executive—shared an open letter to Sait last night, pointing out how the video’s portrayal did not correspond to the actual experience of working for a food delivery company. “I’m not going to assume malice, but rather ignorance on your part,” opens the letter. “As far as your recent tone-deaf video goes, it’s more or less a marketing gimmick by what I can only describe as one of the country’s most predatory companies currently being called out for predatory practices.”
The letter went on to detail the many indignities that a Zomato delivery partner has to deal with, from harassment by building security to a system that incentivises dangerous driving with onerous penalties for being late. Sait responded to the letter this morning by issuing an apology and taking down the offending video.
“Hey! Thanks for this,” he wrote in his response on Twitter. “I respect the work that you do, & it wouldn’t be right for me to contest any of the points you’ve raised. I promise you the intent of the video came from a good place, the purpose was to celebrate and appreciate what delivery partners do, infact that’s how the video ends—it emphasises on how much easier they make our lives. Please accept my apology, I’ve taken the material down from all my social handles. Thank you.”
When contacted by DeadAnt, Sait reiterated that the intent of the video was to celebrate and appreciate them. “But I can’t contest what this person has said, it’s not my place,” he told us. At the end of the day, the reality of the delivery partner community is very different from what we ended up portraying in the video. So apologising was the best thing to do.”
He added that he was not aware of the ongoing campaign by @deliverybhoy and others to highlight what they claim are exploitative practices. “I was not aware,” he said. “I read the letter this morning, but I didn’t want to do anything reactive to it. I read it, and I realised that it’s not at all my place to turn around and contest what someone has said about their work conditions. A lot of other people also said that this is very different from the ground reality, and I accept that.”
Zomato, riding high off an initial public offering that made it India’s first ‘unicorn’, has put its employees and delivery partners at the centre of a marketing blitz since the start of the pandemic. However, it appears this particular attempt may have backfired, adding more voices to the camp asking for more regulation and formal protections for gig workers.