Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like. But in this fast paced world, fast food joints and pizza corners have mushroomed in every nook and corner and working mass bound to live on these appetizers. However, Mumbaikars who depend on dabbawala, are not facing such problems and dabbawala has become their life line. Mumbai Dabbawala is one such business which has thrived throughout Mumbai and has gained recognition world over for its service and operation.
Dabbawala is an individual who has been employed in a unique service industry whose primary business is collecting the fresh cooked food in lunch boxes from the residence of the office goers, delivering it to their respective workplaces and returning the empty boxes back to the customer's residence by using various modes of transport.. Though the work sounds simple but in reality it is a highly specialized business. It has become a part of daily life of Mumbai office goers.
The dabbawala services originated when India was under British rule. Many Indians who worked in British companies disliked the British food served by the companies, so a service was set up to provide ready lunch to them at their work place straight from their homes. It was adopted as professional business in 19th century when Bombay’s rapidly growing population needed feeding at work and Mumbai’s middle classes preferred home cooked chapattis at their work place.
This service was originated in 1880. In 1890, Mahadeo Havaji Bachche, started a lunch delivery service with a group of hundred men. At present more than 200,000 lunch boxes are delivered every day by an estimated 5,000 dabbawalas and all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. Everyone, who works inside this system, is treated as an equal. Whatever may be a dabbawala's function, everyone get paid about 2 to 4 thousand rupee per month.
The service is almost always uninterrupted in any condition of weather. They work in groups of four multiple relay ensuring door-to-door delivery of food on right time at right place. The return on capital is guaranteed by monthly division of the earnings of each unit. The local dabbawalas and population know each other well and often form bonds of trust.
It is a unique distribution system in the world and self-employed dabbawalas is considered as small scale entrepreneur. A color coding system acts as an ID system for the destination and recipient. There are three divisions of management layers in dabbawala business. It is necessary for each dabbawala to contribute a minimum capital i.e investment on two bicycles and a wooden crate for the tiffins, white cotton kurta-pyjamas, and white trademark Gandhi cap. They follow some strict rules during their duty hours. Dibbawala need to carry an Identity card and above all no alcohol is allowed at duty hours.
The success of their business has developed over the years, depends on team work and time management. At 9am every morning, home-made meals are picked up in special boxes, which are loaded onto trolleys and pushed to a railway station. They then make their way by train to an unloading station. The boxes are rearranged so that those going to similar destinations, indicated by a system of coloured lettering, end up on the same trolley. The meals are then delivered on right time, to the right address.
Harvard Business School has produced a case study of the dabbawalas, urging its students to learn from the organization, which relies entirely on human efforts and employs no technology.
According to a recent survey, for the efficiency of their supply chain, they have achieve a six sigma performance rating i.e. 99.99% of delivery are made without error. They make less than one mistake in every 6 million deliveries, despite of the fact that most of the delivery staff is illiterate. Forbes Magazine founded its reliability to be that of a Six Sigma standard which ranks the dabbahwallahs alongside the likes of GE and Motorola in terms of efficiency and quality of service.
Their way of doing business is almost flawless logistics which is now inspiring the profound world of management consulting. Impressed by the dabbawalas’ “six sigma”- certified error rate, management gurus are queuing up to find out how efficiently they do it. Leading national and international companies include Tata, Coca-Cola and Daimler have invited dabbawalas to explain their model to managers.
World renowned Management Guru C.K. Prahalad quoted, “the dabbawalas, who all are receive the same pay, are also seen as paragons of “bottom up” social entrepreneurship.” He says that they show how a home-grown business can help lift workers at the “bottom of the pyramid” out of poverty.
Tremendous publicity of standard of Dabbawala supply chain management set an inspirational approach for the management aspirant minds.
Dabbawala, a full fledged Six Sigma company, which is emerging as a preferred case study in leading B-schools across the country. Inviting the dabbawala to interact with management students is very useful for management aspirants. Time management and supply management, both are very important parts of business study and interaction with dabbawala helps students to grasp the core secrets of these subjects which are useful in practical life.
For their best time management Mumbai dabbawala have made a world record and earned a title in Guinness Book of world records. Many renowned national and international channel like BBC,UTV , MTV, ZEE, TVTOKYO, NDTV, CNBCTV18, made documentaries on Dabbawala’s that how they carries top class supply chain management system in their business. The management model and coding system of the Dabbawalas has received world-wide applause by people like Prince Charles, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke etc. 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.
Of the 5,000 dabbawalas, half are illiterate, but their functioning has never been hampered. More than 200,000 boxes are transported every day, it starts from a point of organization, go through transshipment in the infrastructure that is local trains of the Mumbai in all seasons including the monsoon and has to arrive on right time with the right box. The entire system depends on teamwork and meticulous timing.
Although the service provided by the dabbawala remains essentially simple, with the barefoot delivery men, the dabbawalas have started to adopt information technology and now allow booking for delivery through SMS and also an online website www.mumbaidabbawala.org, to ensure the regular feedback from their customer
Raghunath Medge, President, Nutan, Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association addressing an enthusiastic batch of management students said that Mumbai’s Tiffin box-carriers are providing lessons to corporate India on leadership and efficiency. People study business books and then practice. Ours is the reverse. We practiced first and have now become case studies
Its a Time management behind the successful empire. Mumbai Dabawallas have proved that management has nothing to do with your degree or education rather it is more concerned with a self discipline and determination to achieve perfection in a work that one is engaged in.
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