Mumbai dabbawala

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Information about Mumbai dabbawala
Business & Mgmt

Published on November 18, 2012

Author: HarishBelagali



MUMBAI’S DABBAWALA“If commitment is there, Qualification can be built”

 A dabbawala in Marathi ,literally means person who carries boxes Dabbawala is a person in Indian city of Mumbai who is employed in a unique service industry whose primary business is collecting the freshly cooked food in lunch boxes from the residence of office workers & delivering it to their respective work places and returning back the empty boxes by using various modes of transport

 The origin of the Dabbawalas lunch delivery service dates back to the 1890’s during the British raj. The concept of dabbawala originated when India was under the rule of British. Many British people who came to the colony did not like the local food, so a service was set up to bring lunch to these people straight from their homes.

Hon. Mahadeo Havaji Bacche Hon. Dhondiba Medge

• History : Started in 1890• Charitable trust : Registered in 1956• Avg. Literacy Rate : 8th Grade Schooling (85% Illiterate)• Total area coverage : 60 Kms – 70 Kms (Virar – Churchgate , Kalyan / Panvel –CST)• Employee Strength : 5000• Number of Tiffins : 2,00,000 Tiffin Boxes i.e 4,00,000 transactions every day.• Time Taken : 3 hours• Total Turnover : 50 Crore INR• Industrial Growth : 5-6% every year

• Technological Backup : Nil.• Cost of service - Rs. 300 - 350/month ($ 6.00/month)• Standard price for all (Weight, Distance, Space)• “No strike” record as each one a share holder.• Earnings – 5000 to 6000 p.m. per Dabbawala.• Diwali bonus: one month’s salary by customers.• Great at time management even during floods ( A practiceSeldom seen in Indian context)• Six Sigma Performance. ( 1 defect in 16 Million Transaction)

Raghunath Medge And Mr. Gangaram Laxman Taleker

HOW DO THEY WORK?? Executive Committee• Organizational Structure (5 members) Teams of 20-25 headed by• The Code a group leader Individual Dabbawala’ s workload:• Operations Collect from home – 40 tiffins Delivery at office – 40 tiffins Return empty tiffins to home – 40• War Against Time tiffins


9:30 AM TO 10:30 AM 10:34 AM TO 11:20 AM 11:20 AM TO 12:30PM Pick up Dabba from Unloading and Residence/Caterer *Journey in Local Sorting at and bring it to Train* Destination Station. Andheri Station.2:40 PM TO 3:30 PM 1:15 PM TO 2:30 PM 12:30 PM TO 1 PM Sorting at Collection of Empty Delivery to Destinations station. Dabba. respective customers. 3:30 PM TO 5 PM Returning Dabba to Residence/Caterer.

• Initial Coding System used colored threads to mark 7 Islands• Then Utilized thrown away cotton waste from tailors• Now they are using color markers:• E :: Code for Dabbawala Street at residential station• VLP :: Residential Station Ville Parle• 3 :: Code for Destination station. Example :: Church gate• 9 :: Code for Dabbawala at Destination.• Ex :: Express towers ( Building name)• 12 :: Floor no. in the building.

Zones for Destination Grant Road 1 (12) 2 Point of Aggregation 3 Distribution Churchgate And Sorting (1-10) 4 By CarriersA E 5 at lunchtime Lower Parel 6 To offices B C D 7 (14) Collection from home

Defects per Million % Accuracy Opportunities (DPMO)One Sigma 691,500 30.85%Two Sigma 308,500 69.15%Three Sigma 66,810 93.32%Four Sigma 6,210 99.38%Five Sigma 233 99.977%Six Sigma 3.4 99.9997%Seven Sigma 0.020 99.999998%

• • Samsung Group• DHL • PepsiCo• General Electrics • The McGraw Hill Companies• HBSC Group • Toshiba• Maple leaf food • US Army, Navy, Air force• LG Group • Vodafone• Motorola • Whirlpool• Mumbai’s Dabbawalas • Wipro n many more

Keep Operational cost to minimum: • Use cycles, Hand carts, Local trains • No big office to maintain • No IT Budget and No Miscellaneous cost • No Add budget – word of mouth publicity! • Very Nominal Monthly service cost – Rs 200/-

Keep Capital Investment bare minimum: • Hard Work, Honesty, Promptness and Time management are the only investment • Low office cost • Cheap Hand carts • Cycles - easy to maintain • Use of public space for sorting

Just serve your costumer – nothing else !! • Always deliver food on time – even during heavy rains • Always on time – even without using a watch • Don’t try to impress or Bother costumers with unsolicited offers • Bothering Costumers with offer may force them to discontinue even existing services

Never deviate from your core competency: • Only business of delivering home made food to clients • Efforts to sell other products through dhabbawala system failed • Be “Master of one trade rather than Jack of all” • Develop products and services around core competency, if required

Commitment matters – qualification doesn’t !! • 85% of dabbawalas are illiterate • Max. level of literacy – 8th standard failed • Still able to offer world class service, as they are committed to offer food to costumer on time • “If commitment is there, Qualification can be built”

Know the implications of failure: • If food is not delivered on time, it angers customers and work will suffer • May cause problem between customer and his wife • A vegetarian gets a non-veg dabba – BIG Problem !! • “Knowing the implications of failure makes you more responsible and serious towards your work”

Build your services around existing infrastructure • Use reliable, fast, efficient and cheap local train services • Many food companies in Mumbai use their own infrastructure – tough to maintain and costly as well • “Building new infrastructure increases the cost of service”

Abandon Bad customers: • When dabbawala knocks door, the dabba, should be ready • If its not for 3 consecutive days, then the sevice is stopped as it affects the service to other customers • “Bad customers affect operation and profitability from existing customers”

Penalize employees for non compliance • Dabbawalas are penalized for not wearing Gandhi Topi, Consuming Alcohol, Smoking Cigarette, not pre informing about leave and misbehaving with customers • After a few warnings, if dabbawala dosen’t improve, he is expelled from system • Discipline is main reason for their success

Strengths Weakness• Simplicity with innovative • Highly dependability on service local trains• Co ordination, team spirit • Low funds for association and time management • Limited access to• Low operation cost education• Customer satisfaction • Caste based

Opportunities Threats• Wide scale publicity • Direct competition from• Low operational cost other caterers• Catering • Indirect competition from fast food joints and hotels • Company canteens

 World record in Best Time Management Name in “Guiness Book of World Records” Registered with Ripley’s “believe it or not” Six Sigma rating by Forbes Got ISO 9001: 2000 for excellence in services One among to 50 entrepreneur in India

Invitations for conferences from IIML, Harward, Cambridge, Oxford, IIMA, Lilly, British Telecom, MIT, MET, Dr. Reddy’s Lab Foundation Hyderabad, SCMHRD Nashik BITS – Pilani, and many more. Also, Included in a subject in Graduate School of Journalism University of California, Berkeley.


 England King Prince Charles met dabbawalas on 4th Nov, 2003 He was told to come to church gate station between 1:30 to 2:30 Am, so that the delivery of dabbas to clients is not affected

 Virgin Group Chairman, Richard Branson, travelled with Dabbawalas and delivered dabba to his own employee.

US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke Letter from Prince Charles After floods in Mumbai

“ We don’t understand Six Sigma. We area bunch of illiterates. But we do know our prime responsibility – customer satisfaction. And to achieve that, we can put in hard work like no one else”, - President NMTBSA Raghunath Medge

- Harish Belagali

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