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:
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…
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!
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!
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:
- BBC News: Tiffin Time in Mumbai
- Global Post: This Indian meal service is so efficient it’s the envy of FedEx
- Six Sigma Sharing: The Dabbawala
- What CEOs Can Learn from the Dabbawalas of Mumbai
- Harvard Business Review: Mumbai’s Model of Service Excellence
Add this to my ever growing list of reasons why I want to visit India. 🙂 Until next time…