Mumbai Dabbawallah’s inspire their US counterparts


5000 people, 150,000 lunch boxes per day, almost zero errors – that is the Bombay Dabbawallah’s in one line. If there is one services business in India which qualifies as a Six Sigma business then it is the Mumbai Dabbawallah’s.

How do they do it? They do it by simple color coding and few other codes which are read by the people who are mostly illiterate. This technology (or the lack of it) would put RFID to a shame. It is so popular that Prince Charles met with them  when he visited India. Only recently, did they go hi-tech and have their own website and use SMS for better co-ordination. dabbawallah's

It is the case study for its supply chain management and six sigma ability. Long story short, Mumbai Dabbawallah’s inspired many for their efficiency but no one dared to replicate their success. But, One World Cuisine a group of Boston area restaurants in the US is going to change that. They are planning Tiffin meals for their patrons in Boston and Cambridge areas of Massachusetts.

Would it fly? I am not too sure about that. But, since there is a lot of research which was done on Mumbai Dabbawallah’s, I can tell you why it is a success in Mumbai and Mumbai alone.

  1. The geography of Mumbai is the biggest key for Dabbawallah’s success. Most commercial establishments in Mumbai are in the North and the residential areas in the South. So the dabba movement is from South to North in the morning and North to South in the evening. Dabbawallah’s tried this in Delhi but because of its circular nature it did not click.
  2. The business is based on trust and the 5000 odd people in the ring are almost from the same area. It is more a community rather than a employee base. Ever since they started there was no single strike by the employees – which is a rare feat in India.
  3. Simple system : And the mastery of it. The simple coding system which uses colors is almost impregnable. 1 in a million of the deliveries go wrong. Pretty good by Indian customer Services (ICS) standards.

Now, would the same things apply for the Boston group is something worth waiting for. Until then, Mumbai Dabbawallah’s rule. (source)

Suggested reading : A research on the Dabbawallah’s (pdf)

*Image credit : Wikipedia

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