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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mumbai’s amazing Dabbawalas!

~ Contributed by Sangeeta Roy and Shreeti Bhargava ~

They are ubiquitous with their trademark white Gandhi topi. Most of them are illiterate and know only a smattering of English. Yet the uncanny precision, with which they operate, sans any technology, has earned them world wide attention. Prince Charles is among their league of admirers and he even invited them to his second wedding with Camilla Parker Bowles. They have entered the curriculum of prominent business schools like IIMA and University of California.

Yes, we are talking about the famous yet humble dabbawallas of Mumbai who are the lifeline of lakhs of harried students, office goers and workers. For a small service charge varying between Rs.150 - Rs.300, dabbawallas ensure mumbiakars do not have to depend on packed lunches or junk food for their meals, but have hot home made food delivered at their doorstep.

Almost 2,00,000 lunches get delivered every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawallas who work with utmost punctuality and efficiency. According to a recent survey done by Forbes magazine, there is only one mistake in every 16,000,000 deliveries and the system has registered a Six Sigma rating of 99.9999.

The dabbawallas have been in operation in Mumbai for over a hundred years now. The secret behind their longevity and thriving business is strict discipline, time management and teamwork. What is amazing about the extensive delivery chain of the dabbawallas is that there is absolutely no system of documentation. A simple colour coding system doubles as an ID system. A strong sense of community, and a flat management hierarchy, which deems every dabbawalla as an equal also contributes to their success.

Apart from the near perfect Six Sigma rating, the dabbawallas have numerous more achievements to their name. Their name appears in the Guinness Book of World Records and are registered with Ripley’s “Believe it or not.”

Hat's off to these amazing group of people who have done our Country proud!

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