The acrimonious spat between food aggregators, primarily Zomato, and organised restaurateurs has reached the desk of the Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, with the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) sources saying that the ministry has sent a communication seeking a list of their grievances, especially those concerning deep discounting and data masking.
The development comes after months of trouble between the NRAI and food aggregators like Zomato and Swiggy, with the former taking particular offence with Zomato’s Gold programme, which offered subscribers heavy discounts for in-house dining.
The NRAI had consequently launched a series of campaigns beginning with the #LogOut campaign in the middle of August since when it has claimed several thousand restaurants have signed out of Zomato.
With the dispute dragging on with little progress despite several meetings between Zomato and NRAI officials over the past two months, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal has taken an active interest in resolving the dispute say sources. In fact, the minister had, earlier this month, joked at an event that he would lock Zomato and the restaurateurs in a room until they reach a resolution.
“I am happy to sit down over the issue... the restaurateurs have also met me, complaining about some practices of the food-aggregators. I would suggest that you sort it out quickly amongst yourselves, and if you can’t, I am happy to intervene,” Goyal had said.
The minister had also said last week that e-commerce players do not have the rights to offer discounts or adopt any predatory pricing which can harm the Indian small scale businesses, adding that strict action will be taken against those who don’t comply with Indian rules and regulations. Subsequently, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) had sought top seller details from Amazon and Flipkart, in addition to the e-commerce companies’ capital structure, business model and inventory management.
The request seeking NRAI’s views on the issue are part of the ministry’s drive to protect Indian small businesses, of which restaurants form a major part. According to sources, the NRAI has already submitted this list of grievances to the ministry this Monday.
In another event last week, the NRAI joined hands with the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India, comprising 27,000-plus members, in its movement against Zomato, disclosing a long list of demands.
The list of 15 core grievances listed by the two restaurants’ associations includes deep discounting; lopsided and oppressive contracts with arbitrary rule changes; High Commissions and penalties; delayed payments; unreasonable additional charges; forced use of delivery services and data masking of customers.