Mumbai Dabbawalas –the lessons they taught me
by Sunil Karve, Founder Trustee & Vice Chairman – MET League of Colleges The famous Mumbai Dabbawalas were at the MET League of Colleges a few days ago. They made the same presentation they had delivered at Harvard Business School. At an interesting and interactive session they spoke about the organisational structure, working style, and delivery systems of their organisation – the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier's Association – to a packed weekend gathering of METizens. A lot has already been said about the supply chain management systems used by the Mumbai Dabbawalas. They have received global applause and are featured as case studies in B School books. However, what I took home was not just management fundas but lessons that I will cherish all my life. Since these lessons impacted me greatly, I felt that I must share my learnings with you. Therefore I decided to write this letter. Apart from career-making tips, I learnt life-changing tips on honesty, commitment, stress management, humility, discipline, and HR and time management. During the various challenges in life, I am sure that the values followed by the dabbawalas will give you strength to rise above the toughest odds. The lessons I learnt are: Utmost dependence on Human Capital The most vital link in this chain of food delivery is human capital. The procedures could have been laid down over a century ago, but it is the implementation of the procedures that makes the system work. The Mumbai dabbawalas propagate that correct amount of human dependence can yield amazing results. Honesty and Integrity The threads of integrity and honesty hold the dabbas together. Though it is lunchtime for dabbawalas also, the aroma wafting from the dabbas has never tempted them. Overcoming a basic instinct like hunger is possible only because of strong roots in a culture that encourages truthfulness and integrity. Discipline and Time Management The dabbawalas operate on the...
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