After the Susan Fowler blog post that opened a full blown inquiry into one of the most iconic technology companies of our times, many more individuals have chosen this form of 'whistle blowing' including a similar blog post by ex-employee of TVF and another case of similar allegations of an HR Tech company Betterworks recently. The latest to join in this trend is India based Food Delivery App – Swiggy.
In an anonymous blog post on micro blogging site Tumblr, this group of employees of Swiggy; allege the founders and senior leaders at the company of serious wrongdoings including cheating investors, suppliers, and employees. All four of them worked in the sales team and 2 have already quit while 2 others are planning to quit in next few weeks as claimed by them.
The foodtech start-up was recently awarded as one of the top nine startups in The Economic Times start-up awards 2017 and this blog post comes as a big surprise to everyone watching the Indian tech startup. After all, the malice of wrongdoings and ill practices in the VC funded technology companies does not seem to be restricted to the Silicon Valley alone.
They start by accusing the company of taking the restaurant partners for a ride. While the sales team is made to tie up with restaurants, the contracts are negotiated every few months. They claim that the commission rates have been steadily going up from 5% to 25% and claim they would soon go up to 30%. This in their opinion is arm twisting as the restaurant owners will end up paying Swiggy more than their net margins. They show some screen shots of presentations made internally to indicate that the company is planning to take its average commission rate to 30% by 2022. This according to them would mean some restaurants will end up paying even higher commission rates than 30% and they claim this will essentially be smaller players with less negotiation power.
They further accuse the company of diverting orders via Bowl Company in Bangalore. This they claim will actually take business away from the restaurant partners while Swiggy continues to maintain that Bowl Company is not in direct competition with local restaurants. The writers talk about personal and organizational values and morality clash in this context.
The writers further accuse that most bad reviews on Swiggy are dumped while good reviews are highlighted and even paid for. This they claim amounts to cheating of the users.
Going further, the company has been accused of lying to investors and shows two pictures to make the point. According to the writers of the blog post, the company purposely hid numbers of December 2016 order volumes in order to show a linear growth in order volumes. This action is interpreted by the blog writers as management’s willingness to do anything to get ahead in life.
The unit level economics and calculations are also being questioned and the bloggers claim that all costs that should be considered (according to them) are not being considered in investor presentations, thus hiding the fact that units are bleeding.
Finally about employees they claim that company expects 'bots' who work 24 x 7. They mention that 10-15% of people are always on PIP and there is a too much dissatisfaction and employee churn in the company. They feel that management is taking advantage of the bad job market. The further accuse that all hiring in last year was to cover up numbers in the press.
They accuse HR of changing policies regularly to ensure that people do not get their variable pay while also claiming that some individuals have not been paid their full and final settlements after quitting the job.
Further, the bloggers paint the picture of the organization chart in which the top management is plotting against each other and people who do not agree with leadership is fired unceremoniously. The middle management is not empowered and does everything to follow orders and protect and grow themselves in the company. “All employees are nothing but a dispensable resource”
The bloggers claim that CTO and all senior leadership team are full of 'megalomaniacs' who treat their favorites differently than the other 'hard working' types. The make a serious allegation here as they claim that the ones who are favored are typically the 'drug toting types'.
The bloggers accuse the company of treating the delivery boys worst than cattle. They claim that delivery boys are treated disrespectfully and are not given any medical benefits or insurance. They further claim that this treatment is causing people to talk about forming a union and the bloggers seemed to be supportive of this move by the delivery boys.
They also claim that reports given to media about order volume were also false and again post pictures to claim that actual order volumes were around 3 million when media reports claimed them to be 4 million per month. This they claim is a serious violation of the value system the large employee base believes in and had joined the company for.
The blog post ends with claiming that reason for all the above behaviors is really because the management is really interested in just selling the company to make a 'quick buck' as claimed by the bloggers.
The CEO of Swiggy has recently responded to this blog post and has essentially denied and dismissed all allegations. He claims that the data shown in the post does not match with its own claims and accuses the bloggers of fabricating the information.
In his blog post, the CEO has responded to each & every aspect in detail and we only mention a few of those here.
“The commissions we charge are a function of the value we generate for the restaurant. The reason we started low is because we wanted to first convince the restaurant partners about the amount of value we bring to the table before requesting for higher numbers. Over time, since we’ve started, the value delivered to the partners has been clearly established lending to higher commissions. Also to clarify – Our revenue per order (the 30% that is being talked about) is a blend of 3 parts, the commission we get from the restaurants, delivery fee charged from the consumers and discretionary advertising revenues.”
Our compensation structure is transparent, fair and consistent. We pride ourselves on building a high-performance organization but by hiring very meticulously, we’ve been able to keep the need for PIPs at a fraction of the number mentioned by the author.”
All in all, this 'blog war' between a company and its employees must have given a lot of food for thought to many other companies too. Use of social media to comment on company matters is only a growing trend and sites like Glassdoor actually have figured out ways to monetize the same. In an increasingly connected world, companies will have to ensure that their strategies, policies, and processes are well understood by everyone while also creating appropriate mechanisms for grievance redressal. The companies of today also need to be adept at handling such social media exposures of their internal practices and Swiggy CEO did well to respond to this blog post with a detailed response within a reasonable time. After all, as per urban dictionary, Swiggy means something unbelievably legit and real and we all would like to believe it’s true for the brand too.