Hyundai, Pizza Hut Caught In Kashmir Controversy

SRINAGAR: Some leading world brands caught in Kashmir crossfire are fighting a battle they should have avoided initiating in the first place. These brands work in India as well as Pakistan.

South Korean Hyundai Motor Company, Hyundai started facing the music after its dealer in Pakistan went to Twitter with his “solidarity” with Kashmir. The tweet on February 5, was an apparent endorsement of Islamabad’s formal Kashmir policy.

This led to a quick backlash with netizens in India starting a hashtag seeking a boycott of the Hyundai products.

Well before the issue would become a virtual movement and impact its presence in real terms, the motor company regretted the offence caused to Indians by “unauthorised Kashmir-related social media posts” by its Pakistani distributor. The company in the last more than 25 years has emerged as the second major player in India’s car market where it sells 12 models. In 2021, it sold more than half a million cars in India.

“As a business policy, Hyundai Motor Company does not comment on political or religious issues in any specific region,” the company said in a brief statement. “Therefore it is clearly against the Hyundai Motor’s policy that the independently owned distributor in Pakistan made unauthorized Kashmir related social media posts from their own accounts.”

Insisting that the company has been investing in India for many decades and “remains strongly committed to Indian customers”, Hyundai said: “We deeply regret any offense caused to the people of India by this unofficial social media activity.” It said the distributor was conveyed of his “inappropriateness of the action”. Reports said the tweet was withdrawn, shortly after the backlash in India.

However, it did not prevent the government from taking up the issue with the motor maker.  Insisting that the carmaker should have been “more forceful in its unequivocal apology”, Minister Piyush Goyal told the parliament that the issue was taken up with appropriate authorities. “This issue has been taken up both with the government there (South Korea) and the company concerned,” Goyal was quoted saying the Rajya Sabha. “They (Hyundai) have already issued a clarification yesterday. We have also asked them to be more forceful in their unequivocal apology on this issue.”

Later, the MEA summoned the South Korean ambassador and conveyed serious displeasure. In immediate follow-up, South Korean foreign minister Chung Eui-Yong called up his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on Tuesday and regretted the happening.

Hyundai was not the only brand that landed in the Kashmir controversy.

Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) chain KFC also had to follow the same track in India after its Pakistani counterpart touched the Kashmir wire on Instagram.

“We deeply apologize for a post that was published on some KFC social media channels outside the country,” KFC India official account said on Twitter. “We honour and respect India, and remain steadfast in our commitment to serving all Indians with pride.”

KFC and Pizza Hut are subsidiaries of US-based Yum! brands that also owns the popular QSR brand Taco Bell reports appearing in media said. Pizza Hut is in India since 1996 summer and now has almost 500 stores across the country.

In reaction, Pizza Hut Pakistan deleted the post. Now Domino India has also opologised.

The fear of backlash forced Maruti Suzuki, the top car dealer in India to issue a statement: “As corporate policy, we do not align with any political or religious inclination in any part of the world. Such communication from our dealers or business associates on these topics represents neither our company position nor authorized by us.”

Another South Korean car maker Kai also issued the statement: “Kia India has taken note of unauthorized social media posts made by an independently-owned dealer based outside of the country, using the dealer’s own accounts. We have since taken strict measures to avoid such misuse of Kia brand identity and have put in place the processes to prevent a recurrence.”

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