The Dabbawallas of Mumbai
Famed around the world the Dabbawallas (tiffin carriers) of Mumbai are known for their efficiency, punctuality, organization and management. In my recent day away from home when I get out and get into the chaos with a camera, it was the time when the tiffins were sorted and loaded on cycles at Andheri station.
I took a couple of pictures with the intention to do a short post, but after doing a little bit of research I am now completely amazed with the Dabbawallas in Bombay.
Everyone who works within this system is treated as an equal regardless of their function. More than 175,000 or 200,000 lunch boxes get moved every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawallas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. According to a recent survey, there is only one mistake in every 16,000,000 deliveries and the system has registered a Six Sigma performance at 99.999999 rating.
The word “Dabbawala” in Hindi when literally translated, means “one who carries a box”. It basically stands for the person who carries the lunch box. The concept of the dabbawala originated when India was under British rule, at that time many Britishers who came to the colony didn’t like the local food, so a service was set up to bring lunch to these people in their workplace straight from their home.
The trend has stayed on for over a century and the dabbawala service is presently used by Indian business men and office going people who are the main customers for the dabbawalas.
A dabbawala goes about on a cycle collecting dabbas from homes or from people who cook for dabba services. The dabbawala then takes them to a designated sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort the lunch boxes into groups. There is a special carrier that holds these dabbas and can be easily put into the luggage compartments of the trains and stacked on each other. At each station, boxes are handed over to a local dabbawala, who delivers them. The empty boxes, after lunch, are again collected and sent back to the respective houses. The dabbas have color codes and symbols so the destination of that dabba is know and there are no mix ups.
The dabbas are delivered door to door, cycles , walking or hand carts are used to make the deliveries. The dabbawallas were known for not using minimum technology to make their work possible, although that is set to change with the dabbawallas embracing newer technologies like SMS and the Internet.The presentation below will you give a complete run on the way the dabbawallas work and their management efficency, for which they have been asked to lecture in famous colleges across the country.
With their recent site My Dabbawalla the dabbawallas of Mumbai have begun to take orders to deliver dabbas online, they have also started taking orders through cell phones throughout India. To avail of their cell phone service you need to send an sms with “dabba YourName HomeAddress OfficeAddress” to 3636.
Example “dabba Rajesh 304 , Shivaji Complex , Dadar (west) 2nd floor , Express Tower , Nariman point “ and send it to 3636.
On receiving this message one of the dabbawalas will contact you on your cell phone and your dabba delivery service will start. Prince Charles on his visit to India met up with the Dabbawalas according to their schedule as it is not flexible so did Richard Branson of Virgin.
The latest developments with the dabbawallas are the boosted revenue with advertisements. In the picture here you can see the dabbawallas putting in leaflets in each lunchbox. When Reliance came up with their Initial Public Offering for Reliance Power shares, they used the services of dabbawallas to give away forms for the IPO. Yash Ray Films tied up with Mumbai dabbawalas as part of the film’s promotion, the dabbawalas wore a bright Tashan T-shirt and their dabbas, too, had Tashan stickers with a paan attached to it.
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