Zomato nudges for reduction in plastic cutlery but maybe needs to relook at its nudge statement..

Zomato is the buzzword not just in the food world but also in the finance world with its recent IPO which led to intense discussions in media over its valuation.

This blog is about Zomato’s recent steps to lower plastic cutlery usage using the ideas from nudging theory.  Richard Thaler, founder of nudging says we need to tweak the default choices for the intended behaviour. So to push people towards higher savings, change the default choice towards higher savings.

Zomato has done something similar as its CEO Deepinder Goyal in this blogpost explains:

On the Zomato app, customers always had the option to skip cutlery with their order. However, very few customers used that option. We learnt that it wasn’t because they always wanted the cutlery, but because they weren’t making an active choice. Defaults almost never get changed by customers during product flows. 

We surveyed thousands of our customers, and a whopping 90%+ of them said that they didn’t really need plastic cutlery with their orders. Keeping this in mind, we decided to change the default mode for cutlery – customers will now have to explicitly request for cutlery, tissues, and straws, if they need it. This is now a ‘opt-in’ instead of a ‘opt-out’. 

We all know that plastic is bad for the environment. But did you know that a single plastic spoon can take 200-500 years to decompose? Millions of such plastic spoons get consumed every day, and we all contribute to it. This seemingly small change on the Zomato app will help save up to 5,000 kilos of plastic in one day – that is up to 2 million kilos of plastic in a year. 

This is another small step towards cutting down the carbon and environmental footprint of our food delivery business.

Interesting. Let’s see whether this nudge leads to desired consequences.

However, I think Zomato could have done a better job in designing the nudge statement.

When you say ‘Don’t send cutlery tissues and straws’ and it has an automatic tickmark in the box, it is confusing. People might end up unticking the box leading to plastic cutlery being sent.

A better statement could be ‘Send cutlery tissues and straws’ and keep the tickbox unmarked. Once someone ticks, a message could appear saying go green by saving plastic.

However, I could be wrong as well. Zomato could do an experiment with both the nudges and see which one works better. Even better to share the data with researchers!

Zomato should also strongly nudge the various restaurants and outlest who send food to lower plastic while sending food. One is surprised how much food outlets rely on plastic in most cities in Ahmedabad whereas they could easily opt for greener options for sending some kind of non-curry food.


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