Dabbawalas of Mumbai


The Dabbawalas who provide a lunch delivery service in Mumbai have been in the business for over 100 years. In 1998, Forbes Global magazine conducted an analysis and gave them a Six Sigma rating of efficiency.

* The description of Dabbawalas
1. Descendants of soldiers of the legendary Maharashtrian warrior-king Shivaji, dabbawalas belong to the Malva caste, and arrive in Mumbai from places like Rajgurunagar, Akola, Ambegaon, Junnar and Maashi. 2. They believe in employing people from their own community to create a sense of bonding among them.

* The Organization:
Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association:
History: Started in 1880
Charitable trust: Registered in 1956
Average literacy rate: 8th grade schooling
Employee strength: 5000 dabbawalas + 800 supervisors(mukadams) No of tiffin’s: 200000 i.e. 400000 transactions per day.
Time taken: 3 hrs.
Distance: 60 km
Error rate: 1 in 16 million approx.
Turnover: Rs 5 crore approximately.
Earnings/employee/month: Rs 5000-6000
Organizational structure:



Process flow:
Tiffins are collected from homes between 7.30 am and 10.00 am, and taken to the nearest railway station. At various intermediary stations, they are hauled onto platforms and sorted out for area-wise distribution, so that a single tiffin could change hands 3-4 times in the course of its daily journey.At Mumbai's downtown stations, the last link in the chain, a final relay of dabbawalas fan out to the tiffins' destined bellies. Lunch hour over, the whole process moves into reverse and the tiffins return to suburban homes by 6.00 pm.

To better understand the complex sorting process, let's take an example. At Vile Parle Station, there are four groups of dabbawalas, each has twenty members and each member services 40 customers. That makes 3,200 tiffins in all. These 3,200 tiffins are collected by 9.00 am, reach the station and are sorted according to their destinations by...
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