If you visit Mumbai, you are bound to notice the dabbaba. You may not realize this, but the Mumbai Dabbawala is an essential part of the life of Mumbai.
They are the people who make sure that 2,00,000 people get their lunch on time at their offices or schools every day from home.
Their operations are so efficient that world personalities like Prince Charles and Richard Bradstone have visited them. They have been invited for lectures at business schools. They are even said to be six sigma compliant.
What is a Dabba?
A Dabba is simply a tiffin box carrying home-cooked food, which is to be delivered from the home to a person to his office or school. A dabbawala is a person who takes home-cooked food from your home to your office or school.
Even more impressive is that all the dabbawallas are somewhat illiterate and have no use of any technology. The only motorized transport used is the Mumbai local train. Other than this, they make use of hand-drawn carts or bicycles.
The dabbas or the lunch boxes have a color-coding scheme that ensures that it reaches the right destination.
The structure of this organization is pretty flat. It has just three levels. Firstly the governing body, second-team lead, and third the dabbawallas themselves.
Everyone is an equal shareholder in the organization. There are no bosses, and the earnings are equally divided.
Everyone has to work for the team. If one person works less, the entire squad earning is affected.
All the dabbas come from the same warkari sect, and whenever replacement is required, the villages that have this sect are approached for replacement.
To join this organization as a dabbawalla, the dabbawallas have to bring few things: a long wooden crate, two bicycles, and Rs. 20 for the Gandhi cap they wear. You can avail of this Dabba service as low as around Rs.700 per month.
While the operations are fairly simple, the dabbawallas have started using newer technologies. You can SMS them or log on to their site http://mumbaidabbawala.in/
There is 5000 dabbawalla with 4,00,000 transactions per day with just local train and bicycle. Really amazing.