Mumbai Dabbawala's

Topics: Dabbawala, Lunch box, Tiffin Pages: 13 (3884 words) Published: September 3, 2010

In Marathi or Hindi, ‘Dabba’ means tiffin box and ‘wala’ refers to a person. A Dabbawala, is a person in the city of Mumbai whose job is to carry and deliver freshly made food from home to office of the customer. Basically a Dabbawala is any person who carries the lunch box from the customer’s residence and delivers it to the customer’s work place. But Mumbai Dabbawalas are recognized by the quality of spirit that they carry with them, which make them a class apart. The standards that they have indulged in their work culture and the determination to serve make them to raise their grit to any level that the job demands. Each one of them individually and collectively as a group have performed their task with a single minded focus.

Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association is a 120 year old organization operating in Mumbai city, India. In Mumbai most of the population travel everyday for about 100 kilometers to reach their work place, and since they tend to leave their residence early in the morning it is hard for their family members to prepare lunch during such a time, and even if they do prepare it is very much hard to carry it in the local train since it is too crowded. So it makes sense for them to hire Dabbawalas to deliver the lunch box at their work place in the afternoon, fresh and hot. The activity of the Dabbawalas involve collection, sorting, transferring and delivering the lunch boxes at customers work place and again the process is repeated in reverse way. They have to deliver 2,00,000 such lunch boxes everyday, and they have been awarded Six Sigma for their operation, which means that they make one error in every 16 million transactions. This puts them in the list with MNC’s like GE and Motorola.

They have a flat organization structure, with just three tiers; the governing council, the Mukadams and the Dabbawala’s. This gives much freedom for the members to take the instant decisions depending on the situation. The target customers are basically middle income group, entrepreneurs, school children’s, college students, patients, etc. Finally a survey conducted revealed that the Dabbawala’s shared high degree of Job satisfaction and even their customers were very satisfied with the service provided by them.

A Dabbawala carrying a Wooden Crate

These are few of the major factors which make Mumbai Dabbawalas unique.

You can easily identify them in a crowd like Mumbai, just by looking at the White Gandi Topi, which is mandatory during work hours failing to which attracts a fine of Rs.25, and the speed with which they walk carrying a parcel of 80 Kg with them to be delivered.

They are always in a hurry, they are known for their reliability and work ethics. All fueled by overall objective of “Work is Worship” and “Atiti Devo Bhava” (Guests are God)
The Dabbawala’s are called ‘Mard Marathas’, the worrier cast in Maharastra, and as “Vithoba chi Fauz” that is the army of Lord Vishnu and are also decendents of Shivaji Maharaj. When asked to Mr.Raghunath D Medge, President, Mumbai Dabbawala Association, “ During olden days we use to climb mountains for war, today we climb stares for delivery” and further added “We are in War against time”. This shows tremendous dedication and motivation that they have towards the job they do.

Beliefs Of Dabbawalas
□ Work is Worship.
□ Serving people is serving God.
□ Annadan is Mahadan.
□ Time is Money.
□ Unity is Power.
□ Error is Horror.

The Zero Factors
□ Zero % Fuel usage.
□ Zero % Modern Technology.
□ Zero % Dispute.
□ Zero % Customer Dissatisfaction.
□ No strike since 120 years.


The first of the various areas of excellence that was initiated by late Mr. Mahadu Havaji Bache was in the organization and design of the total job and the individual tasks related to job. Not much has changed since its inception and the design has...
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