Annadaata Dabbawala Copycat

Close on the heels of “KaavyaGate” comes another case of outright copying of content without permission. A little while ago nVa pointed to an interesting article about the Dabbawalla Service in the Bay Area in the US.

This website provided tiffin services, and the ordering etc is by their website annadaata.com. The NYTimes article spoke about how a concept was being transplanted from Bombay to the Bay Area.

From reports, the website got great business after the article appeared and was widely circulated in the press and over the internet.

However, today I got an email from a lady by the name of Shalini Bhalla. She is the founder of a website called spicevice.com. A fellow architect, Shalini started this site as a possible business venture, but for reasons, put it on the back burner.

Ironically, it was coming to the U.S. that opened my eyes to the very international nature of “traditional Indian” cuisine. From this distance it was almost easier to see the influences of the British, Portuguese, French, the Middle East, China, etc on what we perceive as “traditional Indian” food today. […link…]

If you visit the site, you will see that it is a very elegantly designed and content rich website, something that I would go to often. However when the Annadaata story broke out in NYT, she; out of curiosity checked their site and was aghast to find that they had a whole lot of photographs that were taken from her site. Thats when this whole copycat saga started.

As Shalini writes

While doing research for my business plan recently, I came across an article in the New York Times. Titled “Knock, knock. Its Indian Comfort Food” by Shivani Vora, March 15, 2006. The article talked about an Indian food business called “Annadaata”, located in the Bay Area. They sell packed lunch and dinner boxes to busy, working professionals, primarily of Indian origin. Business has boomed recently since they were featured in The New York Times. The main page of the website announces this proudly and also provides a link to the article.

I then moved onto the next page “about us“.

They have a flash animation movie of different food shots on the left. The same 55 images play repeatedly on 3 other webpages. Now browse through my website, Spice Vice. I have a bunch of pictures on the site.

Do you see a similarity? Annadaata has been using 50 images from my site since 2004 (We looked up their archives). They’re selling food and the food they picture isn’t even theirs – its mine.

Copying images is one of the banes of the internet. It makes it so easy and in most cases people care a damn. Just providing a simple copyright text would suffice most people. But in this case, even that was not done.

Shalini contacted the people who run annadaata and she was met with a hostile and rude response.

I called them up and made a simple request that they take down the images. That’s it. I’m not looking for compensation, not even an apology for stealing my work for 2 whole years – nothing. Mr. Kishan Sreedhar who answered the phone, besides being rude, refused to part with contact information for Kavita Srivathsan – a lady named as the owner of the company in the NY Times article. Insisting that I speak only to him, he got progressively angry and belligerent, claiming I was wasting his time and hence money, and that I couldn’t prove the pictures were mine. But I can. I have high-resolution images of each one. I also have the email I sent to Annadaata after this phone call, citing the conversation between Mr. Kishan Sreedhar and me, repeating that they simply take down my images.

Annadaata is surely playing dirty and that is evident from the fact that they would go through the trouble to crop out the copyright text from Shalini’s images.

Each of my website pictures has a copyright line written onto it, along with my website address. Annadaata has cropped the copyright statement from each image and then looped it into the flash movie on their site.

In today’s day and age it is easy to copy stuff from others on the internet and it is also easy to get caught. If Annadaata wants to really do business, they should start out on sound footing. Taking cheap shots at copying someones images and not even acknowledging shows bad business and moral practises.

At the time of writing this article, Annadaata’s website is down. They have a front page that says that it is under overhaul. I wonder if it is because they are scared that they will be sued. This is one time I am happy that America is a litigious society.

I hope that Annadaata takes the proper action and removes the images and provides a simple and meaningful apology.

10 Comments

  1. vijay June 1, 2006

    Their site has all no-go links now. Let’s hope that inspite of the rude tone on the phone they took the hint and are taking it all down.

    It’s sad really.

  2. arzan June 1, 2006

    I think that Shalini should get a lawyer who can send some grief to Annadaata.

  3. Swapna June 1, 2006

    That sucks. I went to the website and none of their links work. But I do remember going to their website a while back as the website came up at a mailing list at work and there were a lot of people complaining that their food wasn’t good.

  4. Kumar June 5, 2006

    We tried a few times to have Annadaata deliver food to our house about a year ago. They would not acknowledge orders that we had placed. One could never be sure whether they’d show up or not. I gave up after a few attempts.

  5. Kavita July 3, 2006

    Hi Arzan:

    I am truly shocked by the utter falsehood of this particular section of your blog. I am one of the founder directors of Annadaata’s Inc. and have never spoken to or heard about a website called spicevice.com until this blog.

    It is indeed surprising that you would publish a spiteful and desperate attempt at popularity by this so-called enterpreneur, Ms. Bhalla – who inturn, has tried to ride on the popularity of Annadaata.com, without checking on the actual facts and details or getting the truth of the matter out.

    As a result of the NY Times article, our website received an unanticipated, humungous number of visitors. A small, local operation suddenly went international with its mileage. IT is due to this that we were under a huge overhaul. We are still working on our e-shop and the links to the website (especially during the time that we were closed) were deactivated. We close for holidays as well and we have a standard page that goes up without links on the same with just the news or info.

    Ms.Bhalla’s claims are entirely false. When Annadaata’s contacted the company that put up the website – we were informed that none of the images they used were copyrighted or plagiarized. Ms.Bhalla’s claims are utterly false and shocking. Apparently, her pictures are not even copyrighted as of today(expired 2004). ???????????????

    I find it utterly hilarious that Ms. Bhalla make such a pathetic shot at fame and popularity. So much for self – starters and so much for making claims of copy-catting! What shocks me more is the fact that you have published this on your blog without any means or form of communication with the Annadaata Representatives. If you must publish Ms.Bhalla’s story- It would be good to publish it under a “gossip or opinions” section – with this response from us. However, if you are to publish this as “news” – you are entirely misrepresenting facts and Ms.Bhalla would surely be reminded of the litiguous nature of our society for trying to discredit an organization that was started as a service to the community.

    Thanks.
    Kavita Srivathsan
    CEO-Annadaata’s Inc.

  6. Kumar July 3, 2006

    It is very easy to check out who is telling the truth: look in archive.org.
    Here’s the link: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.annadaata.com/

    Remember that bits never die.

  7. Shalini Bhalla July 4, 2006

    Hi Kavita

    Its good to hear from you!! You are welcome to get in touch with me at shalini@spicevice.com. Mr. Kishan Shreedhar also has my email addr and phone number.

    1) I would like to say that I am not trying to ride on your success. I am not even a business. I do not have a dabba service.

    2) The images say “Copyright 2002-2004”. This simply means that the images were created in 2002 and edited during the period of 2002-2004. These images were taken by me and my Copyright on them exists today. According to the US copyright office, “A work that is created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death”.
    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#hlc
    My images are also registered with the copyright office.

    3) My article has screen shots from both websites showing clearly that the copyright statement was cropped and then used on your site.

    4) I did get in touch with Mr. Kishan Shreedhar, who said he was a co-owner – first by phone and then by email. I simply requested that my images be taken down.

    Shalini

  8. arathi bhaskar May 31, 2007

    these people are awful. i had used their service once and the people were rude and arrogant. the food was average to below average, and did not arrive until two hours after it was supposed to. i was doubly charged on my credit card. they do not have a secure ordering form – you must email or phone in your bank card number. after all this, i came to learn that several friends and neighbours also had similar problems. aside from these copyright issues, i would certainly not order their food again.

  9. arathi bhaskar May 31, 2007

    I had just posted a reply but I believe it was erased.

    I had tried this Annadaata’s service a while back. It was terrible. The gentlemen who answered the phone was quite rude and when I got my delivery it came a couple hours late. It was also very average to below average food and not worth the price.

    I was doubly charged on my credit card as it appears to be a manual process. They do not have a secure ordering form and one must phone in or email a credit card number.

    I later came to know that various friends and neighbours also had similar problems with Annadaata’s, which if I had known I would not have used them. I would definitely not use them again.

  10. Fbads02 March 13, 2012

    Its funny because Indians, as ever, started to fight among each other and today both of the websites are down. Why cannot we people let someone else progress. JeyHO 

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