“Om” Doormats on Amazon Invite the Ire of Indians Again. When Will They Learn?

Social Commentary

“Om” Doormats on Amazon Invite the Ire of Indians Again. When Will They Learn?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Indians love calling for a boycott on social media. And if there’s any company that can testify to the truth of that statement, it’s Amazon. The online retailer just achieved the dubious distinction of having offended Indian religious sentiments for three years on the trot. Amazon’s dodgy hat-trick – achieved in 2018, 2019, and 2020 – was most recently completed when a user on the website spotted “disrespectful” products like underwear and doormats that featured the image of Hindu gods and religious symbols. Screenshots were promptly taken, and soon enough #BoycottAmazon was trending on social media. Again.

The reaction to the offensive products found on Amazon featured accusations of the retailer being “Hinduphobic” and direct call-outs to the company’s CEO (and world’s richest man) Jeff Bezos. The outrage was simmering, and the e-commerce giant was the biggest target in sight.

There have been similar calls to boycott Amazon even before this incident, and the reasons are identical. Somebody browsing the site comes upon a product featuring a holy image, screenshots make their way to social media, and the hashtag trends for a few days before being forgotten. It’s not just Amazon; many large companies have weathered this exact same storm over the past few years. Netflix and Amazon Prime (there they are again!) were targeted for boycott because of the content of their shows, Zomato faced calls for boycott for simply stating “food has no religion”, and Tanishq had to apologise to trolls for an ad showing an interfaith marriage.

Out of all these companies, however, Amazon seems to land in hot water with the most regularity. Given that Amazon is merely the marketplace, and the designs are being made by vendors on its site, it seems to come off unscathed each time. The company has not issued a formal statement in response to the #BoycottAmazon trend on Twitter. They must be used to it by now.