Mumbai dabbawalas

Mumbai Dabbawalas: The Lifeline For Mumbaikers Daily Lunch

Article Courtesy: Kalyan Ram


If you visit Mumbai you are bound to notice the ‘Dabbawalas’ on busy Mumbai roads. You may not realize, but the dabbawalas play a very important role in the daily life of Mumbaikers. They make sure that nearly 200,000 people get their lunch in time at their offices or schools. Their operations are so efficient and popular that World Personality like Prince Charles and Richard Branson have visited them. They have been invited for lectures at business schools for their supremely organised management skills. They make a perfect example of six sigma process.

Now what is a Dabba?

Dabba is a simple tiffin box carrying home cooked food, that is delivered  to offices and schools. ‘Dabbawala’ is a person who picks up the food from home and ensures that it is delivered to the right person.

It may sound fairly simple but imagine doing  this at a mass scale in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The Dabbawalas have high rate of accuracy and their error rates are shockingly one in million only. To top it all, these dabbawalas are in no way technology driven. As traditionalists, they operate manually via Mumbai local trains or hand drawn cars and bicycles.

The dabbas or  lunch boxes have a color-coding scheme which ensures that the boxes go to the right destination.


The structure of this Organization is like a ‘three step ladder’. The first is Governing Body, the second is Team Leads and third is the Dabbawalas. Everyone has equal share in this organisation. There is no concept of ‘Boss’ and the earnings are equally divided. All the dabbawalas have came from the so called, ‘warkari set’ in villages. When a replacement is required, the ‘warkari set’ of the concerned village is notified. To join this organization as an employee, the dabbawala has to bring few things. A Long Wooden Cradle, two Bicycles, and rupees 20 for a Gandhi cap they wear to work.

So the dabbawalas pick up your home cooked hot meal from doorstep, deliver it to the concerned person and then return the empty box to your doorstep again. For the entire service process, they charge anything just below Rs800 per month. Unbelievable! The Dabbawalas are equipped to serve us with the prevailing technologies too. You can SMS them or you can also login into the site to avail their services.


Mumbai Dabbawalas: The Lifeline For Mumbaikers Daily Lunch
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