enter image description here Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org

Forget Zomato, Swiggy or Uber Eats, one organization starred delivering the “Dabbas” of food even before it gets cool. No matter what the condition be if you have subscribed to their service you will get your Dabba (tiffin) delivered on time.

If you see a person wearing a white outfit with a traditional Gandhi cap and holding too many lunch boxes, then that's our “Mumbaicha Dabbawala”. They started delivering the dabbas a long time before these food delivery giants jumped into the market. This organization of Dabbawalas maintain a glorious history of more than 125 years, and even today it delivers thousands of lunch boxes without any blunder. A very lesser known fact is that this inseparable part of Mumbai didn't start here. Originally it was commenced by Mahadeo Bachche in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh in 1890. It is not just a bunch of workers but it is a well-settled organization having very strict rules with ‘equality’ for their workers. All these white cap holders are entrepreneurs in some way and have a similar stake in this organization. From their dressing sense to their delivery, they have been expanding their standards to improve and make a difference.

Dabbawalas deliver the lunch boxes to the working professionals or others who prefer to have only home-cooked food and believe to be better than anything in this world. But few tiffin providers or restaurants also provide tiffin to numerous professionals. Dabbawalas of Mumbai maintain a long chain system of workers who work in the chain in order to deliver food at the exact time, without any flaw. But you might think that in this type of chain management, errors are likely to happen. But to your surprise, all these dabbawalas are well known for no errors in their work.

They collect the boxes from homes and in this journey to give them back, there are 6 various destinations where they get transferred from person to person and reach its actual destination. They maintain a few distinct numbers and alphabets to identify different zones and dabbas, which creates a unique structure to avoid mismanagement. Every day they transfer 260,000 Dabbas only in 6 hours. They work 52 weeks of a year. They get only 40 seconds to load and unload the crates and in other local train stations, time is much less, 20 seconds only. (source- Wikipedia).

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Loading of tiffin on the Train (Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org)

In 1998, Forbes Global magazine, conducted a quality assurance study on their operations and gave it a Six Sigma efficiency rating of 99.999999.

In 2005, the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) featured a case study on the Mumbai Dabbawalas from a management perspective of logistics.

The New York Times reported in 2007 that the 125-year-old Dabbawala industry continues to grow at a rate of 5–10% per year.

ISO 9001:2000 certified by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand.

From starting an era of the food chain and continuously enhancing their service, they also immersed themselves with the modern world. Now people can book their services through SMS and their website. They also work for today's IT and mechanical giants like Ola, Uber, Philips and other big organizations. They are planning to launch their app as well.

A very remarkable thing to notice is that dabbawalas management systems are part of various management case studies and their skills are discussed in international colleges like “Harvard” and “Stanford”, even after their average literacy being of 8th grade. Due to this kind of quality and honesty in their work, they grabbed the attention of many big names like the Prince of England and the founder of the Virgin Group-Richard Branson. Their spokesperson and president of the organization was invited to the marriage of Royal couple in England.

Even after the outstanding management system and recognition all over the world, today they are suffering because of COVID -19 and lockdown in India. Many of them have shifted to their natives. And others are going through a rough time. But promising news is that, according to a report in Mumbai Mirror, the actors Sanjay Dutt and Suniel Shetty, in coordination with Aslam Shaikh, cabinet minister for Textiles, Port, Fisheries and Guardian Minister-Mumbai City, have come forward to help these Mumbai dabbawalas, who have been hit hard by a coronavirus and providing food for around 5000 families for now and they are also trying to increase their reach.

Most of these Dabbawalas have no technological understanding or much education but they still do their work very firmly and accurately. There is a lot to learn from these Dabbawalas like their honesty towards their work, how to work as a team and how to manage the manpower of the business. From owners of a business, learning their management skills to their employees, who can learn how to work with their co-workers and if you are a student you can learn how to be disciplined, dedicated and punctual to boost your grades.

The journey of these Dabbawalas is just mind-blowing. They hold the hearts of numerous Mumbaikars and for anyone travelling to Mumbai, watching them work would be an incredible opportunity.