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Dabba Walas in Mumbai

Mumbai Dabbawalas

Mumbai is one of the busiest cities in India with a huge flow of traffic. Here people travel tens of kilometres everyday to their workplace using different modes of transportation, with many commuting by train. They get up early and leave for their offices in a hurry as they have to make long journeys. In this chaos, they miss out on homemade meals. Moreover, due to long distances it becomes impossible for them to come home for lunch every day.  The solution to this problem is provided by Mumbai Dabbawalas.

Mumbai Dabbawalas are a group of people who carry freshly prepared food from customer’s home or sometimes from a caterer in lunch-boxes and then deliver those to their offices by lunch time. These lunch-boxes are then collected and sent back either the same day or next day. You can easily recognize these dabbawalas in huge crowd as they wear plain white cotton attire with a Gandhi cap and carry a number of lunchboxes. In order to deliver these dabbas on time, they rely heavily on trains and bicycles for commuting.

The city’s railway network plays a very important role in the success of this model as it is a very reliable, convenient and affordable mode of transportation. When they commute by trains, they carry these boxes in crates on their heads or in insulated bags hung over their shoulders and while commuting by bicycle, they tie them with ropes to the carrier of the bicycle. Majority of these dabbawalas are semi-literate, so they follow a complex but highly effective and unique coding system that is understood by them only.

Every day nearly 5,000 dabbawalas work efficiently and deliver these lunch-boxes to over 2, 00,000 people living in and around Mumbai. They are famous for their excellent organizational skills. The best part is that they are accurate in making the deliveries and never fail. Mumbai Dabbawalas are rate as six-sigma by Forbes Magazine, which means the chance of making mistakes is once in six million deliveries. It is due to their team work and proper time management that they are able to work without any flaws.

Moreover, they provide their services to people 24*7*365. No matter if there are severe weather conditions, earthquake, floods and terrorists attack or more, they are always there to serve you. Even women have made their gradual entrance in this huge army of dabbawalas.  Earlier, there were only 2-3 ladies who were working in this field. But now their number has increased to 20-25. They are referred to as “lunch-box ladies”.  Until few years back, the people who worked under this system belonged to Maharashtra only. But now some North and South Indians have also joined their team.

The business of these dabbawalas is driven by people and not technology. The dedication, commitment and sincerity they show towards their work is the only reason for the success of their business which started almost 125 years back. There is a charitable trust registered under the name of Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier’s Association in 1968 whose current president is Mr. Raghunath Medge. Nowadays, these dabbawalas have started taking orders from people through sms. Therefore, it has become very convenient for the people to feast on home cooked food.

Mumbai Dabbawalas have become so much famous that recently a movie named “The Lunchbox” was released in India. A documentary has also been made on them based on the theme of Dabba Delivery System . Their popularity is not only limited to India, but it is worldwide. Their excellence in the operations made them favorite among Prince Charles and Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic. Prince Charles even invited them to their wedding which was held in London on 9th April 2005. Many university delegates also visit them from time to time. These dabbawalas are also invited to many top management schools in India to give guest lectures so that they can tell the students about their wonderful management skills.

Overall, Mumbai Dabbawalas are the lifeline of the city and now they have become an integral part of Mumbai’s culture.

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