Hyundai faces backlash in India over Pakistan arm’s Kashmir posts

Hyundai India, the country’s second largest car maker, has come under massive crossfire on social media after the car maker’s Pakistan arm released posts on its official Twitter and Facebook handles, announcing “solidarity with Kashmir”. Social media users in India on Sunday called for mass boycotts or cancelling bookings of the car maker.

Several verified handles of BJP and VHP ministers also called for boycotts of Hyundai India through tweets on Sunday, adding taglines such as ‘Kashmir Hamara Hi Rahega’ (Kashmir will remain ours).

“Let us remember the sacrifices of our Kashmiri brothers and stand in support as they struggle for freedom,” the posts by Hyundai Pakistan declared on Saturday. The same have now been deleted.

Social media users have been tagging both Hyundai India and the Korean company’s global twitter handle, along with the car maker’s Pakistan handle.

A spokesperson for Hyundai India said the company had “zero tolerance” to such communication. “The unsolicited social media post linking Hyundai Motor India is offending our unparalleled commitment and service. India is second home to the Hyundai brand and we have zero tolerance policy towards insensitive communication and we strongly condemn any such view,” the spokesperson said.

Industry experts said brands should steer clear of sensitive political or cultural issues, or else face massive backlash.

“The heat the brand is facing in India is collateral damage from being a global brand which, for the lay consumer, is the same irrespective of country,” said Sandeep Goyal, managing director of ad agency Rediffusion. Goyal added that Hyundai Pakistan could have, in fact should have, shown more restraint. “Political comments are highly avoidable for brands as they often do more damage than good,” he said.

Lloyd Mathias, business strategist, who works closely with some of India’s largest corporate brands, said brands should need to stay sensitive on key issues and respect public sentiment – multinational brands, doubly so, given their markets are across nations. “This is absolutely ridiculous from a global brand like Hyundai and completely unjustified,” said Mathias. “The subject has no relevance whatsoever with the automotive category, it touches upon a geopolitical subject that should remain completely out of bounds for any commercial organisation. Also, it is wholly inappropriate in a globalised world where things can rapidly easily spiral out of control,” Mathias, former Asia Marketing Head of Hewlett Packard, added.

Hyundai Motor India had a market share of 16.4%, as on calendar year 2021. The company sells a range of popular models in the local market – from SUV Creta to sedan Verna and hatches Santro, i10 and i20. The car maker’s domestic sales last year stood at 505,033 units, which is an increase of 19.2% over 423,642 units recorded in the year-ago period. The company’s exports rose 31.8% to 130,380 units in 2021.

Late last year, ethnic apparel brand Fabindia, skin-care brand Fem and Ceat Tyres were among the prominent names that came in for huge social media backlash after they released posts involving either religion, Indian festivals or culture. Fabindia and Fem subsequently withdrew their ads and issued apologies. Previously, jewellery maker Tanishq was mired in a similar controversy when it released an ad involving an interfaith ceremony. economictimes


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Monday February 7, 2022, 12:47:12 PM |

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