For immediate release
Success lessons from Mumbai Dabbawallahs
14 February 2010
Unbeatable coding systems, customer focused approach, sense of discipline at every level, teamwork and great personal values are the factors responsible for the success of Mumbai Dabbawalas. This was revealed by Mr Kiran Gawandhe of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Suppliers Association (NMTSA) at a talk he delivered to the management students and teachers at the 33rd Interface, which is the All India Management Conference, held at BITS Pilani on 13th February 2010.
At a jampacked conference hall of the Institute, Mr Gawandhe said that every morning, the lunch box is collected from nearly 200,000 homes of Mumbai between 9 and 10 30 am and the boxes are delivered at the destination between 12 and 12 30 pm. The unique coding on every lunch box which is designed for illiterates, clearly indicates wherefrom the lunchbox comes, where it has to go and which route it needs to take. A 120 year old organization, Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Suppliers Association (NMTSA), which started in 1880 with 4 people has grown now to 5000 dabbawalahs delivering 2,00,000 lunchboxes everyday, which means over a million transactions a day, said Mr Gawandhe. With yearly turnover of 7 million lunch boxes delivered per year, this is a classic example of well managed business that cannot be replicated, said Mr Gawandhe.
Entire system works on teamwork and meticulous timing. Lunch boxes are collected at the exact time from homes and taken to the nearest railway stations. Adding humor, Gawandhe said "Bhabhijis are not afraid of their husbands, but they are afraid of the dabbawallah since he will not wait even a second, he will simply go away if the lunch box is not ready". The boxes are sorted out for area wise distribution so that a single lunch box could change hands 3-4 times in the course of its journey.
Precision rate is extraordinary. Several studies conducted on the Dabbawala system, found that wrong deliveries happen one in sixteen million, which is much below the rates accepted by Six Sigma standards, said Gawandhe. NMTSA has undergone both Six Sigma and ISO certifications, he said. Some people use the lunch boxes to send messages to husbands or send the spectacles they forgot to take to offices, said Gawandhe.
Training for the new Dabbwalas are given by the senior ones. NMTSA regulates all activities of the Dabbawalas, solve possible conflicts between them or with customers. It has the authority to fire or fine a 'bad dabbawala' said Gawandhe. Dabbawalas use bicycles, push carts or walk at the delivery point. On a personal front, Dabbawalas are simple, contented, tradition lovers, apolitical and they work as long as they can work efficiently, about 500 among them are 80 years and above, the oldest working dabbawala is of 82 years, said Gawandhe.
Gawandhe has a special praise for Prince Charles who was one of the firsts to show keen interest in their enterprise following which they came to the limelight and a large number of institutions came to study their operation.
Gawandhe's lecture left a lasting impression on the young managers that one does not need a Harvard MBA degree to master the art of management.
For more information relating to this press release, please contact Dr M Ishwara Bhat, Unit Chief, Publications and Media Relations, BITS Pilani. Cellphone +91 9414082462
Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani is an all India university established under Section 3 of UGC Act. It has the main campus at Pilani, Rajasthan and additional campuses at Goa, Hyderabad and Dubai.
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