Most of you would have heard of the Dabbawalas(lunch box carriers) of Mumbai. Mumbai’s 5,000-odd dabbawalas have been in action for over 125 years, without work stoppages (except for one day of bandh), and deliver nearly 2,00,000 lunches everyday. Their unique operational method is a subject of management study in global business schools.

They have a Six Sigma quality certificate and a global business fan club that includes Prince Charles and flamboyant owner of Virgin Group Richard Branson.

Here are some amazing the facts about Mumbai’s Dabbawalas,

  • Dabbawalas are not employees but each one of them is a self-employed entrepreneur. They are equal shareholders in the Dabbawalas Trust.
  • Approximately 5000 dabbawalas cover around 70 Sq. Km in and around Mumbai and carry out 400,000 transactions everyday.
  • Not a single piece of paper is used during this whole process. All dabbas have different numbers, colors or other symbols (colour coding system) so the dabbawalas can remember where to deliver a specific dabba.
  • Forbes magazine has appreciated their efficiency despite the complexity of the process. Their results are spectacular: one error in every 8 million deliveries, or 16 million if you include the return trip.
  • Dabbawalas don’t rely on modern technology to work their supply chain. They rely mainly on manpower (recently they started taking delivery requests through SMS).The service is almost always uninterrupted, even on the days of inclement weather conditions (eg. monsoons).
  • From Prince Charles to Richard Branson, dabbawalas have won fans all over the world for their management skills. When Prince Charles visited them during his visit to India, he had to fit in with their schedule, since their timing was too precise to permit any flexibility.Prince Charles with Dabbawalas

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson with Dabbawalas

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson with Dabbawalas

  • Business schools, Universities and Corporate from all over the world invite Dabbawalas to give lecture on their Management skills.
  • Dabbawalas are certified to the international standard: ISO 9001 in recognition of their reliable quality management system.
  • This is probably the most environment-friendly enterprise, with zero percent fuel usage, using existing public transportation (trains), bicycles and handcarts to get the job done. (that’s awesome!)



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