What the #BoycottFoodpanda Movement Says About the Double-Edged Sword of Social Media

If you’ve been following the news over the past couple of weeks, you’ve likely not missed the troubling issue Food Panda has got itself into across social media.

In a bid to streamline its operations and delivery effectiveness, the food delivery company restructured its payment strategy for its independent contractors, aiming to increase their overall earnings but to also reduce lost time from waiting around.

Effectively, they went from time-based plus per-delivery to a higher per delivery fee. This means that delivery teams no longer get paid for standing around doing nothing; the incentive is greater for them to go out and deliver.


A good business move, really.

In fact, Foodpanda Malaysia managing director Sayantan Das said that initial data showed a fair proportion of riders are actually earning more under the new initiative, which was implemented at the end of September.

“We are confident that the changes made are for the better, thus we will be sticking with the scheme for the moment,” das said during a recent press conference.

“Contrary to what has been reported, the new scheme actually gives performing riders a chance to earn more, up to 50% more, and those not performing as well to be motivated to take more shifts to get a bigger piece of the pie.”


Not so Fast

While Foodpanda says the move is for the better, it ruffled some feathers, including those of Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman whose Twitter post commented on the legal workings and operations of a privately held business while calling on his followers to support corporations that are fair to both staff and users.

I remember not long ago when Trump stuck his nose where it arguably didn’t belong. Not well received.

It’s not uncommon for businesses to make fundamental changes like this, however. Streamlining operation costs is the norm in every industry. Ensuring maximum productivity from your team also.

But the reality is people dislike change. Especially if it means they have to work more (even if that’s for more money).


What’s been interesting about this scenario is not the change itself, but the reaction to it. Beyond political interference, dissatisfaction from fractionally-employed short-term team members, to the general public; the biggest reaction has been online – with the approval rating of the company app.

Within days, the star rating for the Foodpanda app went from 4.4 to 1.3. Now that’s a huge drop. Phenomenal really. And they’re saying its dissatisfied customers.

Social media platforms and rating systems give consumers an advantage, but they are a double-edged sword – it doesn’t take much to undermine an established business and cause visible setbacks.

I am not so convinced. With several hundred thousand ratings, a significant numerical shift like this has to be a coordinated effort by brand saboteurs – designed to radically shift the perception of the business. This is greater than a few existing customers being unhappy at service or changes; this is a coordinated effort to destabilize.

Can it be proved? Well, not so easily. But on the balance of probabilities, and on understanding how these things work, it certainly seems extremely likely.

My interest is not in looking at who is responsible for this attack, or the real reason or reasons why it is happening, but rather at how easily a normal functioning business can be hit by keyboard warriors to destabilize their reputation, when in fact, the business really hasn’t done anything counter to legal operational strategies.

Social media platforms and rating systems give consumers an advantage, but they are a double-edged sword – it doesn’t take much to undermine an established business and cause visible setbacks.

Farrell Tan

Farrell Tan

Farrell is a Founding Partner of Orchan Consulting in Malaysia.

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