Aishwarya Ramesh
Points of View

Will Swiggy's stance act as a ray of hope in the face of trolling?

Swiggy took a stance in the face of farmers protesting in Delhi. Will this set a precedent for other brands to take stronger action against trolls?

When Swiggy trended on Twitter, it was for taking a stance on a polarising issue in India. Right now, farmers are protesting in Delhi against the recently introduced Farm Bill, and it has captured the attention of netizens.

The conflict began when Swiggy India's official account responded to a tweet from a troll about the need for farmers to make food.

The food delivery giant received recognition for the response it had posted to the tweet. It had acknowledged that it was not possible to make food without the farmers, and mentioned that it was not possible to get a refund on education (which teaches students about farmers' role in society).

In recent times, brands have been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. On Twitter, Tanishq was trolled for putting out an ad on Hindu-Muslim unity.

Also Read: Have bullies and bigots taken Tanishq's advertising hostage?

After the Tanishq controversy and Boycott Zomato, this is the first time a brand has taken a stance in the face of social media trolling. Tanishq took down its Hindu-Muslim unity ad after it was trolled, and Zomato didn't respond at all to its trolling when it responded to Swara Bhasker's tweet and #BoycottZomato was trending.

When we look back on what happened between brands versus 'bhakts' in 2020, will Swiggy's response stand as a ray of hope like we think it will, or will it not? A look at what some experts have to say:

Abhik Santara, director and CEO, ^atom network

On the face of it, the move by Swiggy looks ballsy and just right. But then this is nothing equal to the controversy surrounding Tanishq or Zomato, either in proportion or spirit. No doubt Swiggy's response is brave, but it is smart, and also comes with far lesser risk.

It is not a commentary on anything large, rather a response to something obviously very silly. I also think Swiggy could have done anything but respond to that tweet. Had it not, trolls would have flooded with comments on why Swiggy is not responding – have they started believing that farmers are not needed too? So, this is a smart move.

Abhik Santara
Abhik Santara

Saurabh Mathur, business head, experience and technology, VMLY&R India

Logic dictates that brands should not get involved in arguments or low blows since it tends to ‘feed’ the trolls. The more attention/engagement they get, the bolder and widespread trolls become. Brands tend to starve trolls of engagement, which is what we saw with Zomato. This is a perfectly acceptable approach to things as well.

In the absence of an ‘agenda less’ media, social media becomes an avenue for dissent and discussion. And one topic that has recently led to a lot of discussion are the farmer protests. Brands have largely stayed away from this topic, until now...

Saurabh Mathur
Saurabh Mathur

In my opinion, brands have as much say as any individual. At the same time, brands should be brave enough to know that just like an individual’s opinion, some of what they say will be loved or hated. Such is the polarity we live in.

Brands are a sum of all its parts – their experience, service, RTBs and, equally importantly, what they say, how they say it and what it’s on. There is no universal truth or recommendation for brands to follow.

But if a brand does choose to have an opinion, which it should, don’t measure your success based on ‘sentiment’ scores. It’s a sensitive world out there.

Satbir Singh, founder and CCO, Thinkstr (former chief creative officer of FCB Ulka)

Satbir Singh
Satbir Singh

Most trolling is a red herring and is designed to distract. Having said that, brands must be careful. Purpose-driven or not they should stay away from the political slugfest which has reached its nadir the world over.

In the past, organisations have withdrawn ads as they feared for the safety of their employees. It is not entirely impossible to imagine a delivery boy, for instance, being physically inconvenienced as an extension of online trolling.

Swiggy's response to the trolling does not set a precedent as such for brands going forward. A stand-alone tweet doesn’t have much chance of becoming some sort of rallying cry. As such, things won’t change. If anything, brands will be extra cautious on social media.