A comparative insight: the Dabbawalas
A simple service, unlike any other
It sounds plain enough. When asked what other company the Dabbawala could be compared to, Dhondu Kondaji Chowdhury, who like every other employee is also a shareholder, responded: “There is a service called Fed-Ex that is similar to ours – but they don’t deliver lunch”.
Complex logistics without leaving a paper-trail
The Dabbawallah are quick to point out that the majority of their workers are, in their words, “uneducated”. In fact they believe it is one of the secrets of their success, along with their innate Indian capacity for mathematical thinking. One spokesman for the group said “the uneducated have an ability to memorise and retain more as opposed to the educated who are used to writing down everything.”
All transportion is completed on foot, bike or public train service. In fact, train station platforms become a temporary sorting office even during rush hour in order to dispatch the meals across the city. To maximise efficiency, a single tiffin can be expected to pass through 3 or 4 hands on each journey.
Technology isn’t always the answer
The Dabbawala are fiercely proud and take their responsibilities very seriously. Occasionally, when a Dabba is stolen and sold on, the Dabbawala visit markets to buy back the box and return it to its righful owner. This culture of commitment to excellence is arguably the root cause of their remarkable track record, which has brought them international recognition. Forbes reported that their error rate is 1 in 6 million deliveries.