The Dabbawala System: Analysis and Recommendations
The dabbawala delivery system can be improved by focusing on transportation, turnover and technology. The on time, every time mission of delivering dabbas faces many travel issues each day such as: bicycles that have limited space, delayed pick up from food makers due to water supply, road work, and railway strikes. As the culture in Mumbai continues to change and the city experience growth, turnover has become a problem within the workforce of the dabbawalas. This change in culture has also increased the use of technology and it has been increasingly noticeable that the dabbawala’s need to embrace this movement to increase sales and customer relations. Our recommendations for the dabbawala delivery system would be to migrate to motorized buggy carts to increase carrying capacity of dabbas and speed up the delivery process. In regards to turnover, we believe that the leaders should learn to speak English and provide English classes to the employees. This will help reduce the turnover within the workforce as the driving factors are other educational and professional opportunities being provide elsewhere in Mumbai. English classes will also help address the technology aversion of the employees. Training them on the current website has been difficult due to illiteracy. Therefore, the technology currently in place has been unutilized, as it is English-based software. Providing training on the current website would allow the company to make changes to update the software in the future that might actually generate results if utilized.
“Each day throughout the city of Mumbai, India, 5,000 individuals called dabbawalas delivered some 130,000 dabbas (lunch boxes filled with home-cooked food) to offices throughout the metropolis” (p. 1, Thomke & Sinha, 2013). The dabbawalas, “one who carries a box”, are a semiliterate workforce that focuses on on-time delivery and customer satisfaction (Mumbai Dabbawala). Dabbas are retrieved from homes, delivered to customers, picked back up empty, and returned to the food maker so that the process could be repeated again the next day (See Exhibit A). This system has operated with excellence since 1890, even in the absence of technology. The dabbawalas have gained worldwide notoriety for their supply chain efficiency, yet also scrutinized for their organizational system. About 200 groups work throughout the city, each with a designated area. Each employee has its own customers, but shares the profits generated equally amongst its group members. A representative is elected to a managing committee that tackles operational and social issues affecting all dabbawalas, as well as attempting to resolve difficult issues that could not be resolved at local levels (p. 2, Thomke & Sinha, 2013). During a committee meeting in 2010 Anil Joshi, an adviser for the dabbawala system, suggested that the company upgrade their website to include a payment gateway for online ordering and to start a cell phone texting service for order inquires. The current system, setup in 2005, faced many challenges because of the dabbawala’s aversion to technology, as well as the lack of operational support to monitor or track orders. Complaints ranged from lack of education to inadequate electricity supply to support technology.
Critical Issues Summary
Dabbawalas face a number of issues on any given day in regard to the transportation and delivery of their dabbas: delayed pick up, difficulty navigating the traffic, encountering road repairs, monsoon weather, or railway strikes. Each of these issues could compromise the integrity of the dabbawala to deliver “on time, every time” which is their mission. (Dabbawala Foundation, 2013). The dabbawala workforce has begun to face employee turnover, which was unheard of in the past, because of increasing number of educational and professional opportunities within...
References: Brynjolfsson, E. (July 2003). The IT Productivity GAP. ROI Valuations. Issue 21
Dabbawala Foundation (2012). Dabbawala Foundation, Mumbai. Retrieved September 6, 2014 from: http://www.dabbawala.in/index.php
Mumbai Dabbawala. Retrived September 6, 2014 from: http://mumbaidabbawala.in/about-us/
Thomke, S., & Sinha, M. (2013). The dabbawala system: On-time delivery, every time. Harvard Business School, doi: 9-610-059
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