Grofers’ response and reading the room

Grofers’ founder Albinder Dhindsa recently took to social media to ‘chime in about the hate’ they were getting ‘for delivering groceries in 10 minutes’.

A large part of the ‘chime’ seemed factual enough – long story short:
– we deliver from a store near your place
– so, our people are literally waiting for your order by standing outside shops close to your home
– our technology secret sauce helps our delivery personnel to pack your items in the store near your place in under 2.5 minutes
– and that’s how we are able to deliver under 10 minutes

Sure, this is absolutely possible, and a fair response too.

But, what was he responding to?

This.

Someone praised Grofers for delivering in 13 minutes and the founder found it prudent to add that the delivery person was ‘3 minutes late’. Not for life-saving medicines, but for groceries.

Ok, let us keep the ‘do people need groceries in 5/10/15/20/30 minutes?‘ argument aside for now. As someone chimed elsewhere, I concur with, ‘this is a hammer in search of a nail’. But, let us assume there is perhaps a latent need for people to ‘want’ their groceries under 10 minutes (or whatever fancy number the leading players have advertised this morning) and that people did not express that ‘want’ so far… and these companies have figured out that ‘want’ and are simply delivering on it.

The larger issue, from a communications perspective, is Albinder/Grofers not reading the room.

What is the context in which people would read this, ‘3 minutes late’?

The context is the increased buzz around the exploitation of delivery personnel since they are not full-time employees and are called ‘gig workers’.

In December last year, the Fairwork India Ratings 2020 rated many platform-economy companies poorly, including putting Zomato at the bottom of the table, and Grofers at 4 (out of 10; relatively ‘better’ than Zomato).

Zomato’s Deepinder Goyal even took the report in the right spirit and publicly promised to do better (which was a fairly unusual and courageous move for a CEO given how most leaders would rather want to forget a report like that, instead of directing people’s attention towards it in some way).

The ‘room’, hence, is not just filled with ‘wokes’ as people who agree with Albinder so fondly like to name-call – it is also filled with actual delivery personnel who have aired their views either in the form of the report, or to journalists, or directly, via Twitter, through handles like ‘Delivery Bhoy’.

Zomato, most recently, shared a video where comedian Danish Sait ‘played’ delivery boy for a day and understandably, got called out for the charade, and deleted the video with a note of apology (which, like Deepinder’s tweet on the report, is mighty brave and honest).

In this ‘room’ (or, context), tweeting that a company would try to deliver groceries (not even ‘hot food’) in 10 minutes and pooh-poohing ’13 minutes’ seems both unnecessary and pointless. Albinder’s tweet directs people’s attention towards a delivery standard that is being actively discussed and debated. It is somewhat understandable, though – his rivals like Swiggy Instamart and Dunzo are all over full-page ads claiming ridiculously short delivery times and he probably felt that this is a good opportunity to add Grofers’ delivery time too.

But, as a responsible leader, Albinder needs to read the room before adding yet another ridiculously short delivery time on top of what is already a ridiculous short delivery time.

Beyond that, his ‘chiming’, while mentioning facts, also has a last paragraph that is clearly intended to create a ‘them vs. us’ narrative that our politicians already revel in. To sweepingly frame everyone who has a point of view not in line with Grofers’ line of thought as ‘cynical/envious’ of Grofers (and tom-tom’ing the ‘Indian innovation’ in true political style) is quite unbecoming of a leader’s communication. It’s a very Politician style dog-whistle to separate those who are for-Grofers and those who are against, no matter what the reasons are. In a way, Grofers probably does not want to listen to counterpoints at all, and this sweeping dismissal is a clear indication of that intent.

Ironically, Albinder’s note was quite factual and stands solidly on its own even without the last paragraph. But, I suppose he fell into the temptation to polarise the narrative instead of staying factual given how polarisation is paying rich dividends to Indian politicians.

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