A dabbawala is a person in the Indian city of Mumbai whose job is to carry and deliver freshly made food from home in lunch boxes to office workers. Dabbawalas picks up 175,000 lunches from homes and delivers them to harried students, managers and workers on every working day, at their desk, 12.30 pm on the dot. Customers can even order through the Internet. After the customer leaves for work, his/her lunch is packed into a lunchbox by his family members. A color-coded notation on the handle of the lunchbox identifies its owner and destination. The dabbawala picks up the lunchbox and he moves fast using a combination of bicycles, trains and his two feet. In a 3 hour period, through a 25-Km of public transportation involving multiple transfer points he delivers to his customers. In 1998, Forbes Global magazine conducted a quality assurance study on the Dabbawalas' operations and gave it an accuracy rating of 99.999999, more than Six Sigma. The Dabbawalas made one error in six million transactions. That put them on the list of Six Sigma rated companies, along with multinationals like Motorola and GE. There was only one mistake in every 6,000,000 deliveries. The BBC has produced a documentary on dabbawalas, and Prince Charles, during his visit to India, visited them (he had to fit in with their schedule, since their timing was too precise to permit any flexibility). Although the service remains essentially low-tech, with the barefoot delivery boys as the prime movers, the dabbawalas have started to embrace modern information technology, and now allow booking for delivery through SMS. A web site, mydabbawala.com, has also been added to allow for online booking, in order to keep up with the times. An online poll on the website ensures that customer feedback is given pride of place. The success of the system depends on teamwork and time management. Such is the dedication and commitment of the barely literate and barefoot delivery boys who form links...
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