Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dabbawala - Amazing!

Recently the discussion in our office turned to the Dabbawallas in Mumbai. I haven’t noticed them during my short stays in Mumbai but heard about them a lot!

1- No unions!
3- No forward and backward reservations!
4- No Congress, BJP, Left or right!
5- No fights – they don’t have the time!
6- The most respected.
7- A compartment in the local trains allotted just for them.
8- They give lectures to the IIM’s!
9- They have been awarded the Sig Sigma Rating!

So who are these dabbawalas?

They are the wonder workers in the bustling city of Mumbai or Bombay as it was called. They satisfy the needs of 1000’s of office workers who are forced to leave their homes at unholy hours and hence their food does not get packed in time. The home made food is delivered to their work place without any fail and it is till fresh and warm.

- They have been awarded the Six Sigma rating. A few years ago, US business magazine Forbes gave Mumbai’s dabbawallas a Six Sigma performance rating, or a 99.999999 percentage of correctness — which means one error in six million transactions.

Six Sigma is a process that helps organisations focus on delivering near-perfect products and services. If you use Six Sigma you can measure how many defects there are in a process and can systematically figure out how to eliminate them and try and achieve zero-defect status.

- Secretary of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust Gangaram Talekar and M Medge, a tiffin carrier contractor — both essentially dabbawallas — have been delivering lectures at premier institutes like the IIMs, CII conferences, Symbiosis institutes, WTC, for the last six years.

“It started with the Confederation of Indian Industry inviting us for a lecture,” said Talekar. “Our connections are well-managed, which is what we talk about at the lectures. Without putting in any capital ourselves, we manage to achieve a difficult feat,” he added.


* They rely on low capital and use cycles, wooden carriages and local trains to achieve their target.

* There are several groups that work independently and network with each other to achieve one goal.

* They meet once a month where all the groups gather and thrash out issues.

* There is no retirement age. People work as long as they want. to.

* Since their lifestyle is simple and involves a lot of physical exercise, they rarely suffer from illnesses.

* The dabbawallas have a credit society which gets them through money crunches.

How the dabba is delivered

* The first dabbawalla picks up the tiffin from home and takes it to the nearest railway station.

* The second dabbawalla sorts out the dabbas at the railway station according to destination and puts them in the luggage carriage.

* The third one travels with the dabbas to the railway stations nearest to the destinations.

* The fourth one picks up dabbas from the railway station and drops them of at the offices.

* The process is reversed in the evenings.

I guess every Logistic company would love to learn from these dabbawalas!


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