Mumbai’s dabbawallas never cease to amaze me. They have received temendous publicity in the last few years, mostly because of the Six Sigma certification by Forbes, the Prince Charles visit and wedding invitation, and the support of Virgin’s Richard Bramson.
But this was news to me: “Microsoft has tied up with Dabbawallas to Offer ‘Asliwala PC Offer’. The main aim of this campaign is to spread the awareness about the benefits of genuine Windows software. Under this scheme the leaflets will be distributed to 2 lakh customers of Dabbawallas with the message about the benefits of genuine Windows software.
Against this leaflets customers may buy PC, Laptops, etc from Zenith computers at discounted prices. Dabbawallas will be wearing the T-Shirt and cap of Microsoft Vista — the new operating system recently launched by Microsoft. Your friendly Dabbawalla will be paid Rs. 100/- for every PC or Laptop sold through this scheme.”
Read the original “press release” straight from the Dabbawalas themselves!
I’m so happy to see this 120-year old institution growing more than ever.
In the News
“There is a service called FedEx that is similar to ours — but they don’t deliver lunch.”
Recent New York Times story.
“On a bicycle we are king of the road, We can go down no-entry roads, through red lights. You can’t do that in your car, can you?”
An account from The Independent
Unraveling the Color Coding (From Mumbai’s Amazing Dabbawalas)
- “Error is horror!” In the event of a dabbawalla meeting with an accident en route, alternative arrangements are made to deliver the lunch boxes.
- The dabbawalas must be extremely disciplined. Consuming alcohol while on duty attracts a fine of Rs 1,000. Unwarranted absenteeism is not tolerated and is treated with a similar fine.
- Branding: The Gandhi cap serves as a potent symbol of identification in the crowded railway stations. Not wearing the cap attracts a fine of Rs 25.
- No retirement age, and any person can work till he is fit enough to carry on the tasks required of him.
- Put the customer ahead of everything else. It is said that when Prince Charles expressed a desire to meet them during his visit in 2003, the dabbawallas requested him to schedule the meeting such that it did not interfere with their mid-day delivery timings.
(From Walk the Talk with Shekhar Gupta, The Indian Express)
- “Our computer is our head and our Gandhi Cap is the computer cover to protect it from the sun or rain.”
- “The uneducated have an ability to memorize and retain more as opposed to the educated who are used to writing down everything.”
- “Till one is 25–30 years old, you can eat anywhere, but after that home cooked food is what suits the the stomach and health.”
- “Even if someone in their family falls ill, they first deliver the food and then attend to them.”
- “Our ancestors fought in Shivaji’s army and just the way they had to climb mountains while fighting, we have to climb stairs to deliver the tiffins.”
- “I made every worker a shareholder. This way they would put in more effort and since everyone is a shareholder, there would be no question of a union or strike.”
- Q. “Have any of your disputes reached the police or the courts”
- A. “No, never.”
- Q. “How did the people in Italy react to you?”
- A. “They are amazed that uneducated people like us can carry out a business like ours so accurately. They rely on their call centres for every small problem whereas we have to be accurate with our delivery every single time.”