Dabbawalas in Mumbai
The Dabbawala offer a service dating back to 1880 delivering fresh home-cooked meals to Mumbai businessmen.
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”.
Yet in spite of the simplicity of the concept, the complexity of the operation is also plain to see, with 200 000 deliveries every day.
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.