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  • The first dabbawalla picks up the dabba from a home and takes it to the nearest metropolitan commuter railway station.
  • The second dabbawalla sorts out the dabbas at the railway station according to destination and puts them in the luggage carriage.
  • The third one travels with the dabbas to the railway stations nearest to the destinations.
  • The fourth one picks up dabbas from the railway station and delivers them to each individual’s office.
  • The process is reversed in the evenings with each dabba completing a distance of 60-70 kilometers and changing hands eight times.
  • Customers pay $5 to $9 a month for this service, which also explains why Western cities hardly know these kinds of services . . . it would be too expensive.
  • The system is a cooperative, which means that all the workers collectively own the business, are paid equally and share equally in the profit.

Every work day the dabbawallas pick up and deliver 200,000 lunch boxes within only a couple of hours, in a traffic-congested city whose population is more than 20 million.

It has been estimated that the dabbawalla’s on-time service delivery standard was 99.99998% . . . which exceeds Six Sigma standards! That is one late/missed delivery for every 6 million deliveries!

It has been said the Dabbawallas are the envy of Fedex.

The dabbawallas have started using internet technology to build their customer base. They are now carrying mobile phones. Their monthly delivery fees have increased and business is growing.

They have a long tradition in India, but how long will the dabbawallas last as an occupation?

There is a trend to eat out more often and use take-away food vendors at lunch time. And, women in younger generations are more likely to be working themselves so they are not at home to make mid-day meals for their husbands.

But, the strict dietary requirements of the various different religious groups in India make home made meals a necessity for many workers.

As in all countries, dining out is expensive, and the trains will continue to be overcrowded making it difficult for workers to carry their lunch dabbas in the passenger cabin.

I think it will be some time before the dabbawalla disappears.

Your thoughts?
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons

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