Restaurant aggregator and food delivery company Zomato on Tuesday apologised to a person, who alleged that he was denied refund by its customer care agent for not knowing Hindi and announced terminating the services of the employee concerned.
However, company founder Deepinder Goyal later announced reinstating the sacked agent, saying it was "an ignorant mistake" on the part of the employee.
A tweet from a user who goes by the handle "@Vikash67456607" triggered a major Twitter backlash, with the hashtag "Reject_Zomato" trending on top at the microblogging site.
In response, Zomato apologised to Vikash and also issued a statement both in Tamil and English, stressing that the company stood for diversity.
Earlier, Vikash tweeted he had ordered food on Zomato and complained that an item was missing.
"Customer care says amount can't be refunded as I didn't know Hindi. Also takes lesson that being an Indian I should know Hindi. Tagged me a liar as he didn't know Tamil. @zomato not the way you talk to a customer," he tweeted and tagged the company while sharing screenshots of his purported chat with the former customer care agent in question.
The Zomato agent also allegedly told Vikash that Hindi was the country's national language.
In its statement in the two languages which started off with the traditional Tamil salutation "Vanakkam" Tamil Nadu, Zomato said the company was "sorry" for the behaviour of its former employee.
"We have terminated the agent for their negligence towards our diverse culture. The termination is in line with our protocols and (the) agent's behaviour was clearly against the principles of sensitivity that we train our agents for on a regular basis," the statement uploaded on Zomato's Twitter handle said.
It said the sacked employee's statements do not "represent our company's stance towards language and diversity."
Zomato further said it was building a Tamil version of its mobile app and that it had already localised its marketing communication in the local language in the state.
It also pointed to roping in well-known Tamil musician Anirudh Ravichander as its local brand ambassador.
The company was in the process of building a local Tamil call or support centre in Coimbatore in the state.
"We understand food and language are core to any local culture and we take both of them seriously," it added.
Meanwhile, Goyal sought to defend the agent, saying most people at the call centre were young people "at the start of their learning curves."
In a series of tweets, he said "an ignorant mistake by someone in a support centre of a food delivery company became a national issue. The level of tolerance and chill in our country needs to be way higher than it is nowadays. Who's to be blamed here?"
We should all tolerate each other's imperfections and appreciate each other's language and regional sentiments, he said.
"Tamil Nadu -- we love you. Just as much as we love the rest of the country. Not more, not less. We are all the same, as much as we are different," Goyal said.
"And remember, our call centre agents are young people, who are at the start of their learning curves and careers. They are not experts on languages and regional sentiments. Nor am I, btw."
"On that note, we are reinstating the agent -- this alone is not something she should have been fired for. This is easily something she can learn and do better about going forward," he added.
In an apparent reference to the controversy, DMK leader and the party's Lok Sabha MP Kanimozhi said the customer care of some companies operate only in select languages.
"It should be made mandatory for companies to serve their customers in their local language. A customer doesn't necessarily need to know Hindi or English. #Hindi_Theriyathu_Poda," (I don't know Hindi), she tweeted.
Note: Lead illustration used only for representational purpose