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Top 10 Reason For Using Dabbawalas Services

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2007 at 8:26 pm

1)Home made food is best for health and because health is wealth. Outside junk foods may take your life and makes you sick. Home made food keeps your doctors bill down and there are fewer absences from office due to poor health. In fact bad food is the reason #1 of all the diseases

2)Home made food is cheaper. When you use Dabbawala’s services to deliver your home cooked food to your office you are actually saving your hard earned pennies. The delivery charges of Rs 250 – 300 per month is very nominal and reasonable. Its simple maths

3)Do you not love your mother or wife and like to eat food made by her?

4)Even if there is no one at home to cook food for you , Dabbawalas can deliver you good quality home like lunch  through many restaurants. We have quality restaurants all over Mumbai where  cheap and best quality food is prepared which is delivered at your office or home through Dabbawala Channel

5)Safety – The Local train of Mumbai are always very crowed and it is very tough to take even small luggage during peak times. There are instances where the person’s hand got hurt or broken and ones belongings destroyed while traveling during peak time. People leave from their home at about 8  – 9 PM which is peak time and its not possible to carry Tiffin during this time and Even the food is not ready by this time. By using our services you are getting hot food safely deliver in your office

6)Dabbawalas give reliable services and their performance and accuracy match six sigma standards. You must be sure that your home cooked food reaches in time

7)We , the DabbaWalas never go on strike.

8)By takeing our services you are proving direct employment to 5000+ Dabbawalas and many of their dependent families. You are actually helping us

9)Dabbawalas are an icon in their own sense and famous world over for their efficiency and by taking our  services you are being part of India’s image building

10)Dabbawalas are from the remote villages of Maharashtra and mostly uneducated. They regularly organize bhajan and kirtans and spread the essence of Marathi culture , good will and one ness of India. Being a part of DabbaWalas , you are actually nurturing Marathi culture


About Dabbawala

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2007 at 8:19 pm


 A dabbawala (one who carries the box), sometimes spelled dabbawalla , tiffinwalla , tiffinwalla or dabbawallah, is a person in the Indian city of Mumbai whose job is to carry and deliver freshly made food from home in lunch boxes to office workers. Tiffin is an old-fashioned English word for a light lunch, and sometimes for the box it is carried in. Dabbawalas are sometimes called tiffin-wallas.

Though the work sounds simple, it is actually a highly specialized trade that is over a century old and which has become integral to Mumbai’s culture.

The dabbawala originated when a person named Mahadeo Havaji Bachche started the lunch delivery service with about 100 men.Nowadays, Indian businessmen are the main customers for the dabbawalas, and the service often includes cooking as well as delivery.

 Economic analysis:
Everyone who works within this system is treated as an equal. Regardless of a dabbawala’s function, everyone gets paid about two to four thousand rupees per month (around 25-50 British pounds or 40-80 US dollars).

More than 175,000 or 200,000 lunches get moved every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. According to a recent survey, there is only one mistake in every 6,000,000 deliveries.

The BBC has produced a documentary on dabbawalas, and Prince Charles, during his visit to India, visited them (he had to fit in with their schedule, since their timing was too precise to permit any flexibility). Owing to the tremendous publicity, some of the dabbawalas were invited to give guest lectures in top business schools of India, which is very unusual. Most remarkably in the eyes of many Westerners, the success of the dabbawala trade has involved no Western modern high technology. The main reason for their popularity could be the Indian people’s aversion to Western style fast food outlets and their love of home-made food.

The New York Times reported in 2007 that the 125 year old dabbawala industry continues to grow at a rate of 5-10% per year.

Low-tech and lean:

Dabbawala in actionAlthough the service remains essentially low-tech, with the barefoot delivery men as the prime movers, the dabbawalas have started to embrace modern information technology, and now allow booking for delivery through SMS. A web site,, has also been added to allow for on-line booking, in order to keep up with the times. An on-line poll on the web site ensures that customer feedback is given pride of place. The success of the system depends on teamwork and time management that would be the envy of a modern manager. Such is the dedication and commitment of the barely literate and barefoot delivery men (there are only a few delivery women) who form links in the extensive delivery chain, that there is no system of documentation at all. A simple colour coding system doubles as an ID system for the destination and recipient. There are no multiple elaborate layers of management either — just three layers. Each dabbawala is also required to contribute a minimum capital in kind, in the shape of two bicycles, a wooden crate for the tiffins, white cotton kurta-pyjamas, and the white trademark Gandhi topi (cap). The return on capital is ensured by monthly division of the earnings of each unit.

Uninterrupted services:
The service is uninterrupted even on the days of extreme weather, such as Mumbai’s characteristic monsoons. The local dabbawalas at the receiving and the sending ends are known to the customers personally, so that there is no question of lack of trust. Also, they are well accustomed to the local areas they cater to, which allows them to access any destination with ease. Occasionally, people communicate between home and work by putting messages inside the boxes. However, this was usually before the accessibility of instant telecommunications.

In literature:
One of the two protagonists in Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel The Satanic Verses, Gibreel Farishta, was born as Ismail Najmuddin to a dabbawallah. In the novel, Farishta joins his father, delivering lunches all over Bombay (Mumbai) at the age of 10, until he is taken off the streets and becomes a movie star.

Dabbawalas feature as an alibi in the Inspector Ghote novel Dead on Time.

The word “Dabbawala” can be translated as “box-carrier” or “lunchpail-man”. In Marathi and Hindi, “dabba” means a box (usually a cylindrical aluminium container), while “wala” means someone in a trade involving the object mentioned in the preceding term, e.g. punkhawala with “pankha” which means a fan and “wala” mean the person who owns the pankha (The one with the fan).

A day with Dabbawala

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2007 at 8:15 pm


We have been getting many request from not only India but many foreign countries to personally interact and understand the working of Dabbawala by actually working with then in local train. we are happy to inform that we have made a ” A Day with Dabbawala” plan which fulfills this demand.
This is how it works:
1- Please contact us for the request for the ” A Day with Dabbawala“.
2- The day may be arranged for single person or a group.
3- You will have to report to our Andheri office or directly at the residence of Dabbawala at about 8AM.
4- If required, we will arrange for a English speaking guide to help you discuss with Dabbawala.
5- You will go with Dabbawala to the customer and collect the Dabba.
6- Then you will travel in local train with Dabbawalas to the destination station.
7- At the destination station , you will do sorting and arranging with Dabbawalas.
8- Then you actually travel with Dabbawala and deliver the Dabba to customer.
9 – Then you take lunch with the group of dabbawalas.
10- After this the empty Dabbas are collected.
11- The you return back to station with empty Dabbas.
12- Again you travel in local train and reach the starting station. It will be fun this time with Dabbawala in local train as the customer is served and Dabbawalas are relaxed.
13- After reaching destination station the Dabba is returned back to customer and this finishes ” A Day with Dabbawala“.
14- If required any of the above points may be escaped by you and you may be part of a particular event.

So come now ! and ” A Day with Dabbawala” and get to know how we work and what is the reason that even Prince Charles and Sir. Richards Branson (Chairman of Virgin Group – England) took so much interest in us. In fact Sir. Richards Branson actually spend a day with us as mentioned above.


What you can learn from a dabbawalla

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2007 at 8:10 pm

A Six Sigma Quality Certification endorsed by?Forbes magazine, a fan club that includes Prince Charles and Richard Branson (owner of the Virgin empire) –?this guest lecture was definitely?going to be unlike any other we have had on campus at NITIE, Mumbai.

imageThe speakers were not your regular pinstripe, suit-clad, swanky corporate types who are often spotted in B-school auditoriums, spewing management jargon.

Raghunath Megde and Gangaram Talekar,?president and secretary respectively of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust of Mumbai, were here to share their mantras on ‘Time Management’ and ‘Supply Chain Management’.

Popularly known as Mumbai’s dabbawallas, they were here to explain how their establishment managed to supply, without any hitches, 2,00,000 lunch boxes everyday in the busy metropolis of Mumbai.

Note: The Six Sigma quality certification was established by the International Quality Federation in 1986, to judge the quality standards of an organisation. According to an article published in?Forbes magazine in 1998, one mistake for every eight million deliveries constitutes Six Sigma quality standards.

Food for thought

Before cutting to the management mantras, let’s understand a few facts about our dabbawallas. Their mission is to serve their customers –?who are mainly office goers –?by delivering their lunch boxes at their doorstep on time.

They have?5,000 people on their payroll to ensure the prompt delivery of lunchboxes within Mumbai; these ‘delivery boys’ travel by?local trains and use bicycles or walk to reach every nook and corner of Mumbai.

The lunch boxes are delivered exactly at 12.30 pm. Later, the empty boxes are collected and taken back to the homes, catering services or hotels?before 5 pm. In fact, the next time you forget to strap on your watch before leaving for office, don’t be surprised to find it in the lunchbox container brought by the dabbawalla from your home!

On an average, every tiffin box?changes hands four times and travels 60-70 kilometres in its journey to reach its eventual destination.

Each box is differentiated and sorted along the route on the basis of markings on the lid, which give an indication of the source as well as the?destination address.

The management perspective

Megde’s presentation was in chaste Hindi. We got to know much about the operational aspects of the process.

From this, I deduced that?dabbawallas are a prime example of management guru Michael Porter’s Five Forces Theory at work.?

According to Manav Malik, a first year student of NITIE, “Porter’s theories, which are the basis for classical management principles, define the scope and nature of competition a company faces to attain leadership. Surprisingly, the dabbawalas are following these very principles in spite of their ignorance of the same.”


These are as follows:

i.?Threat of new entrants: According to Porter, the threat new entrants is?dangerous to any organisation?as it can take away the market share the organisation enjoys.

Started in 1880, the experience curve of the 125-year-old dabbawalla service serves as a huge entry barrier for potential competitors.

Besides, it would be?difficult to replicate this supply chain network that uses Mumbai’s jam-packed local trains as its backbone.

ii.?Current competition: Porter’s five forces theory states that strategy is determined by a unique combination of activities that deliver a different value proposition than competitors or the same value proposition in a better way.

The dabbawallas do face competition from fast food joints as well as office canteens. However, since neither of these serve home food, the dabbawallas‘ core offering remains unchallenged.

They have also tied up with many catering services and hotels to cater to the vast number of office goers.

iii.?Bargaining power of buyers: The delivery rates of the dabbawallas are?so nominal (about Rs 300 per month) that one simply wouldn’t bargain any further.

Also, their current monopoly?negates any scope of bargaining on the part of their customers.

Thus, we encounter a perfect win-win combination for the customers as well as the dabbawallas.

.?Bargaining power of sellers: The dabbawallas use?minimum infrastructure and practically no technology, hence they are not dependent?on?suppliers. Since they are a service-oriented organisation, they are not dependent on sellers to buy their product. Hence,?sellers do not assume any prominence as would be the case in a product-oriented company.

The strategy map framework in Porter’s theory allows companies to identify and link together the critical internal processes and human, information and organisation capital that deliver the value proposition differently or better.?

Human capital is the greatest driving force in the dabbawalla community; as a result, they are not?dependent on suppliers or technology, thus negating the seller’s power in the equation.

v.?Threat of a new substitute product or service: As substitutes to home cooked food are not seen as a viable alternative in the Indian scenario, the threat to the dabbawalla service is not an issue at least in the foreseeable future.

This gives them a?leeway to probably expand their already existing network into newer cities as demand increases in these places as well.

So, will these people next target the other metros in India? Only time will tell.?

Dabbawala methodology

~ “Error is horror,” said?Talekar while explaining the operational motto.?In the event of a dabbawalla meeting with an accident en route, alternative arrangements are made to deliver the lunch boxes.

For example, in a group of 30 dabbawallas catering to an area, five people act as redundant members; it is these members who take on the responsibility?of delivering the dabbas?in case of any untoward happenings.

~ The dabbawallas must be extremely disciplined. Consuming alcohol while on duty attracts a fine of Rs 1,000. Unwarranted absenteeism is not tolerated and is treated with a similar fine.

~ Every dabbawalla gets a weekly off, usually on Sunday.

~ The Gandhi cap serves as a potent symbol of identification in the crowded railway stations. Not wearing the cap attracts a fine of Rs 25.

In fact, Richard Branson, the maverick businessman who is never shy to promote himself and the Virgin brand, donned a Gandhi topi and dhoti (the dabbawallas’ signature dress code), during the launch of Virgin’s inaugural flights to Mumbai.

~ There are no specific selection criteria like age, sex or religion; however, I have never seen a female dabbawalla. The antecedents of the candidates are thoroughly verified and a new employee is taken into the fold for a six-month probation.

After that period, the employment is regularised with a salary of Rs 5,000 a month.

~ It is interesting to note?there is?no retirement age, and any person can work till he is fit enough to carry on the tasks required of him.

What we learnt

~ “As management students,?there was a lot that we learnt from this lecture,” says Karthik A J, a first year management student at NITIE. ” The belief that technology is indispensable to solve complex problems was shattered. FMCGs and other industries can learn a lot from the simple supply chain logistics and efficient reverse logistics (transfer of empty lunch boxes to the source location),” he adds.

~ The concept of multi-level coding (colour coding on the lunch boxes for identification) and reverse logistics?can be implemented in industries as diverse as soft drinks (where logistics becomes an important aspect, transporting the filled bottles to retailers and collecting empty bottles back to the plants), pharmaceuticals and other FMCG areas.

For example, can the bar coding mechanism (a computerised format)?which is prevalent and expensive, be simplified with just colour/ number coding?

In small and medium scale organisations where bar coding systems would require a lot of resources, these systems can prove to be very efficient and cost effective.

Moreover, the dependence on technology could be?drastically reduced.

~ The learnings for a working executive are?enormous too. Managers and executives alike spend a lot of their valuable time learning various concepts in people and time management. Newer mechanisms like Customer Relationship Management, etc, have?been developed to assist executives in the same.

But, in the midst of implementing technology and IT, basic principles in people management, sustainable relationship development and customer satisfaction have lost their meaning.

Our friendly dabbawallas are a perfect example of an important principle of both business and management –?the thirst to serve customers in a simple yet effective fashion without falling into the technology trap. I think this is an aspect which needs to be re-learnt and implemented in any organisation today.~ The most enduring lesson that we learnt was to put the customer ahead of everything else. It is said that when Prince Charles expressed a desire to meet them during his visit in 2003, the dabbawallas requested him to schedule the meeting such that it did not interfere with their?mid-day delivery timings.

Harsha Venkatesh is a first-year management student at?NITIE, Mumbai.

Did you?benefit greatly from a college activity or guest lecture? Have you travelled abroad for a student exchange/ fellowship/training programme? Are you involved in an exciting student activity?

Hello world!

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2007 at 10:45 pm

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