No no, dabbawala isnt an Aussie slang word. Dabbawala refers to a delivery person in India – picking up hot lunches from the homes/kitchens of a worker/employee in the late morning and then transporting and delivering said lunchbox to an office, and finally returns the empty lunchbox back to the customer’s home in the afternoon. Here’s a good visual:
Dabbawala delivery system in Mumbai (via MyDestination)
So what prompted this post, you may ask? Well, I went to see the foreign film, The Lunchbox, earlier today – a sweet, Indian film about the unlikely romance that blossoms as a result of a dabbawala delivery mix up (which as you’ll learn, isn’t all that common.) I won’t spoil the ending or the plot for you; however, if you get the chance, see the movie – so cute! Even if the character in the center of the picture below looks a tad creepy…
The Lunchbox movie poster (via Wikipedia)
Back to the dabbawalas.
This delivery system works so well in India (primarily Mumbai) because office workers in India prefer to eat home-cooked lunches, coupled with the fact that many Indian women (wives, mothers, daughters, sisters) work from the home and can utilize the dabbawala’s service.
The dabbawalas are impressive, yall! I did a bit of research after the movie, and they kept the service up during floods, monsoons, even the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai – there are currently over 5,000 dabbawalas working tirelessly in Mumbai delivering over 200,000 lunch boxes each day!
Love this b&w shot of a dabbawala – so cheery! (via Jwritings.com)
Indeed, the system is so impressive (and fascinating) that professors from Harvard Business School wrote a case study on the process – a quote from a report from NBC News:
So deeply imprinted that the dabbawalas rarely, if ever, make a mistake. Their delivery system has been awarded a six sigma level of efficiency. That means they make around one mistake in every six million deliveries.
“A hundred things can go wrong along the way — tiffins delivered to the wrong destination, tiffins lost, tiffins broken — but they rarely do,” said Sawant. “Our motto is ‘error is horror.’”
Their delivery system has garnered international fame as a highly specialized trade, attracting Prince Charles and Richard Branson and warranting a case-study at Harvard Business School, visits from global delivery giant FedEx, and a series of documentaries.
Intriguing, right?? If it’s good enough for HBS, Prince Charles, FedEx, and Richard Branson, I’m sold 😉 Not to mention the tiffins (or their snazzy lunchbox containers) are super practical for warmed food – I love the 4-5 stacked compartments!
An example of a tiffin used in the dabbawala delivery service
Umm borderline obsessed with this colorful tiffin! (via Women’s Day)
So I’ll leave yall with a video I found in my googling – it made me cry (pretty easy feat in my case, but I guarantee that even if you’re not a crier – *cough Barr cough* – you’ll smile huge in the last minute or so): the dabbawalas make about the equivalent of $5(USD) a month, working rain or shine – and always on time at that! I love punctuality (*cough Barr cough*) 😉 The Indian head bobble is also prevalent in this clip – love!
Want to read more on the dabbawalas? Here are some of my favorite links that I came across:
Add this to my ever growing list of reasons why I want to visit India. 🙂 Until next time…