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A dabbawala (one who carries the box), sometimes spelled dabbawalla , Tiffin Walla , Tiffin Walla or dabbawallah, is a person in the Indian city of Mumbai whose job is to carry and deliver freshly made food from home in lunch boxes to office workers. Tiffin is an old-fashioned English word for a light lunch, and sometimes for the box it is carried in. Dabbawalas are sometimes called tiffinwallas. Though the work sounds simple, it is actually a highly specialized trade that is over a century old and which has become integral to Mumbai's culture. The dabbawala originated when a person named Mahadeo Havaji Bachche started the lunch delivery service with about 100 men. Nowadays, Indian businessmen are the main customers for the dabbawalas, and the service often includes cooking as well as delivery. A network of (dabba)wallas picks up the boxes from customers’ homes or from people who cook lunches to order, then delivers the meals to a local railway station. The boxes are hand-sorted for delivery to different stations in central Mumbai, and then re-sorted and carried to their destinations. After lunch, the service reverses, and the empty boxes are delivered back home. The secret of the system is in the colored codes painted on the side of the boxes, which tell the dabbawalas where the food comes from and which railway stations it must pass through on its way to a specific office in a specific building in downtown Mumbai. A business that is still growing at the rate of 5 to 10 percent, it has received the Six Sigma award from the Forbes Magazine. Only those organizations get the Six Sigma award that can keep their defects at around 1 defect every 6,000,000 (six million) deliveries. This is amazing, and they don’t even get any special management training. Seth Godin in his post rightly says: The dabbawalas know their customers. If they rotated the people around, it would never work. There’s trust, and along with the trust is responsibility. By creating a flat organization and building relationships, the system even survives monsoon season.
Mumbai's dabbawallas invited for Charles- Camilla wedding
The dabbawallas of Mumbai are attending Prince Charles' wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles
4 April, 2005: So far, only two people in Mumbai, India's financial capital have been invited for the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. And they are not Mumbai's gliteratti - they are the dabbawallas - tiffin carriers who are in the business of reaching home-cooked lunches to Mumbai's working millions. Mumbai has an estimated 5,000 tiffin carriers -dabbawallas delivering about 175,000 lunch boxes every day. The business is centiry old and evolved over a period of time - and the efficiency of the process have earned the dabbawallas a six-sigma rating from Forbes magazine. The Six-sigma rating means that they have a 99.99 % efficiency in delivering the lunch-boxes to the right people. Their indigenously developed tracking system has been studied by management institutes and gurus, and Prince Charles, when he came to Mumbai in 2003, met them and had a chat with them. Raghunath Medge, president of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association and Sopan Mare, the secretary, are the proud receivers of the invitation. The invitation was sent on behalf of Prince Charles to the dabbawallas by the British High Commission. The invitation thanked them for their gifts to Prince Charles. When the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles was announced, the dabbawallas went looking for traditional gifts to send to them. They chose a traditional headdress and a sari The two proud dabbawallas will go to London, but will not stay at the Hilton hotel due to language problems, and instead will stay at the Sanyas Aashram Trust centre in London. The dabbawalla representatives do not speak English, and are worried about it. Their other problem would also be the food, as British cuisine could be impossible for them to eat. Still, the dabbawallas are looking forward to the wedding, they say, and will go wearing
Mumbai's Dabbawallas a complete management Concept
1. Threat of New Entrants: The experience curve of the hundred year old dabbawallas serves as a huge entry barrier. No one could possibly replicate this supply chain network that uses Mumbai's jam-packed local trains as its backbone. 2. Current competition: Dabbawallas face competition from fast food joints and office canteens. Since, neither of them serves home food, the dabbawallas core offering remains unchallenged. 3. Bargaining power of buyers: The rates of the dabbawallas are as it is so nominal that one simply wouldn't bargain any further. Also, their monopoly status negates any scope of bargaining from their customers. 4. Bargaining power of sellers: The use of minimum infrastructure and a total aversion to technology ensures that they are not dependent on suppliers. 5. Threat of a new substitute product or service: Nobody has thought of one yet!
THE EXECUTION OF DABBAWALLA’S WORKS
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The first dabbawalla picks up the tiffin from home and takes it to the nearest railway station. The second dabbawalla sorts out the dabbas at the railway station according to destination and puts them in the luggage carriage. The third one travels with the dabbas to the railway stations nearest to the destinations. The fourth one picks up dabbas from the railway station and drops them of at the offices. The process is reversed in the evenings.
Mumbai has an estimated 5,000 tiffin carriers -dabbawallas (literal translation- the can-carriers) delivering about 175,000 lunch boxes every day. The business is centiry old and evolved over a period of time - and the efficiency of the process have earned the dabbawallas a six-sigma rating from Forbes magazine. The Six Sigma quality certification was established by the International Quality Federation in 1986, to judge the quality standards of an organisation. According to an article published in Forbes magazine in 1998, one mistake for every eight million deliveries constitutes Six Sigma quality standards. The Sixsigma rating means that they have a 99.99 % efficiency in delivering the lunchboxes to the right people. That put them on the list of Six Sigma rated companies, along with multinationals like Motorola and GE. Achieving this rating was no mean feat, considering that the Dabbawalas did not use any technology or paperwork, and that most of them were illiterate or semiliterate. Apart from Forbes, the Dabbawalas have aroused the interest of many other international organizations, media and academia. In 1998, two Dutch filmmakers, Jascha De Wilde and Chris Relleke made a documentary called 'Dabbawallahs, Mumbai's unique lunch service'. The film focussed on how the tradition of eating home-cooked meals, and a business based on that, could survive in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. In July 2001, The Christian Science Monitor, an international newspaper published from Boston, Mass., USA, covered the Dabbawalas in an article called 'Fastest Food: It's Big Mac vs. Bombay's dabbawallahs' . In 2002, Jonathan Harley, a reporter, did a story on the Dabbawalas with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). In 2003, BBC also aired a program on the Dabbawalas, which was part of a series on unique businesses of the world. In 2003, Paul S. Goodman and Denise Rousseau, both faculty at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration of Carnegie Mellon University, made their first full-length documentary called 'The Dabbawallas'.
Back home, the Dabbawalas were invited to speak at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) meets and at leading Indian business schools such as IIM, Bangalore and Lucknow. Secretary of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust Gangaram Talekar and M Medge, a tiffin carrier contractor — both essentially dabbawallas — have been delivering lectures at premier institutes like the IIMs, CII conferences, Symbiosis institutes, WTC, for the last six years.
A Clutch of statistics that reveals the task that the dabbawallas are up to: -
History Average Literacy Rate Average Area Coverage Employee Strength Number of Tiffins Time Taken Cost of Service Turnover
: Started in 1880 : 8th Grade Schooling : 60 Km per Tiffin Box : 5000 : 2,00,000 Tiffin Boxes, i.e., 4,00,000 transactions every day : 3 hours (9 am - 12 pm delivery of carriers, 2 pm - 5 pm collection of empty carriers) : Rs. 200/- - Rs. 300/- per month : Rs. 50 crore per month approximately
FUTURE PLANS ABOUT THEIR HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
In their white Pajamas and Gandhi Topis, they may not sport the conventional corporate look. But Mumbai’s dabbawalas explained some basic principles of management with future managers. Crowned with the six-sigma quality standard, the dabbawalas shared their success mantras with students of Vivekanand Education. Managing time effectively is not a rocket science that it requires lot of careful study and dedication but it requires only a little change of attitude. One can organize himself, if he tries to analyze his own daily activities and he can easily find where he is spending his time. He has to ask himself whether the time he is spending is really productive. He has to prioritize his timing.
Raghunath Dhondiba, President, Dabbawala Association and Gangaram Laxman Talekar (Secretary) addressed a large gathering, including students and professors of different management colleges. The crux of the lecture was that ‘customer satisfaction’ should be the most important goal of any company. Time is virtue Punctuality and time management are on top of the agenda for dabbawallas. Whatever be the circumstances, employees never getdelayed even by a few minutes. For years, they have been taking the same trains and buses. “We have to cover a distance of 65 to 75 kilometres a day in three hours; we can’t afford any delay”, says Gangaram Laxman. Zero Technological Investment The whole tiffin distribution requires negligible technology. “This is one of the reasons why we are successful; our man power is highly efficient”, said Gangaram. Interestingly, the average literacy at Dabbawallas is up to class VIII, with more than 60 per cent of the total employees still illiterate. “Intelligent people waste their time in asking questions whereas we only focus on fulfilling our responsibility”, said Gangaram. A single weak link breaks the whole chain. All the members in a team should perform excellent to bring a perfect result. Corroborating this, Dabbawallas’ honchos explained about different distribution and how each segment maintains its time-cycle. “Ours is a war against time; we have no space for lapses”, said president Raghunath. No discipline, no growth. The dabbawallas have to follow three rules at any cost. (a) They have to wear white caps during working hours. (b) They are not allowed to drink alcohol during working hours. (c) They have to carry their identity cards If found flouting these norms, any employee can be punished and fined from Rs 500 to Rs 1,500. In extreme cases, the person might also be fired from the organization. “A good leader could never make things run properly if there are flaws in the system”, said Raghunath. “One should never compromise with the discipline in the organisation, as it hits the integrity of that association”, he added. Error rate: 1 in 16 million transactions. “I do not know the exact meaning of error, but one thing that I know is when you are serving someone, it is not acceptable to make mistakes”, said Gangaram. Dabbawallas take 2 lakh tiffin-boxes every day, resulting into the total transactions to 4 lakh per day, still the error rate is one in 16 million transactions. That is how they have earned Six Sigma certification.
“No Strike” record. The 5,000 employees of Dabbawallas’ Association have never gone on strike. “Whenever we feel that there could be dissatisfaction in anyone’s mind, we simply tell them to take a leave and rest on that day; from the next day, the employee comes without any annoyance”. Marketing fundas Due to their high reach to the commonest people, Dabbawallas’ often carry the pamphlets, stickers and other marketing material of different companies for a fee. The highly efficient coding system Although the average literacy of Dabbawallas’ is class VIII and more than 60 per cent are illiterate, all of them are well versed in decoding their exclusive coding system. Each area is divided into several small distribution sectors and each sector is handled by a particular person. This person understands the address in that locality very well. Also, this perfection comes with practice. Many new employees work for months under the guidance
SHARE THE SUCCESS WITH EVERYONE
Success stays forever only when shared equally between all the people who worked for it. “Howsoever big the organization is, its success depends on the efficiency of all the employees working for it; so they all need equal respect and gratitude as given to the senior members”, said the Dabbawalas’ president. Another lesson that Dabbawallas gave was that real lessons of life are never taught in the classroom. It is the commitment and determination of a person, which creates wonders. “Nothing could be as important as the responsibility taken by you; this is the only principle dabbawallas’ are following for last 116 years”, said Raghunath the Dabbawalas’ president.
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