A deliveryman working with the food delivery app Zomato sits on his bike in a business district in Mumbai. Photo: AFP

Indian food delivery platform Zomato’s ambitious new plan to launch a 10-minute delivery service is facing a harsh backlash on social media that could cause a corporate rethink.

On Monday, the company announced it would pilot “Zomato Instant” in select areas of Gurugram, near New Delhi, next month. Zomato had expected the service would be welcomed by customers who had become quite habituated to ordering food online during Covid lockdowns.

However, the service received a hostile reception on social media with netizens raising concerns about the safety of delivery drivers and the quality of food prepared in such a short duration. The uproar forced Zomato founder Deepinder Goyal to clarify the service to allay customer concerns.

The issue was quickly politicized. Congress party leader and member of the lower house of the parliament Karti P Chidambaram tweeted, “This is absurd! It’s going to put undue pressure on the delivery personnel, who are not employees & who have no benefits or security, who have no bargaining power with @zomato I have raised this in Parliament & have written to the Govt. Will pursue this further.”

A Shiv Sena party leader and member of the upper house of the parliament Priyanka Chaturvedi also tweeted, “Please consider the safety of delivery agents – this pressure can be hazardous. I am sure no one has a problem waiting 30 minutes for food delivery, the world won’t end if food not (sic) delivered in that time frame, the world won’t be any happier at 10-minute delivery.”

Many others on Twitter also hit out at the company, calling the instant delivery plan unsafe and unwanted. Many remarked that nobody is going to die if food is not delivered in 10 minutes.

Indian cities are notorious for slow-moving traffic and daily commuters endure heavy traffic jams, especially while traveling through central business districts. The average speed of vehicles is 23 kilometers per hour in Delhi, 20 km/h in Mumbai and 18 km/h in Bangalore.

In such conditions, concerns are Zomato’s drivers would be forced into rash driving and violation of road safety rules. They would not only risk their lives but also put others in danger, some on social media said. Some people were also concerned about the quality of food that would be delivered in a mere 10 minutes.

Responding to the criticism, Goyal came up with a series of slides on social media to reassure users on driver safety, quality of food and the viability of the model. He said the 10-minute delivery service will only apply for select food items and specific customer locations.

The approximate kitchen preparation time for 10-minute delivery is 2-4 minutes while the average distance traveled is 1-2 kilometers with 3-6 minutes of time traveled, he said.

Delivery personnel will not be informed about promised delivery time for both 10-minute and 30-minute deliveries and there will be no penalties for late deliveries and no incentives for on-time deliveries, he clarified.

He said the company provides insurance to its delivery partners and regularly educates them about road safety rules.