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Mumbai's dabawalas: The inside story

October 30, 2007

The author of the book Dabawalas, Shrinivas Pandit, shares his experiences of interacting with Mumbai's ubiquitous homemade food deliverymen.

Dabawalas, Mumbai's ubiquitous homemade food deliverymen have been a part of my life from 1955 to 1967. With religious regularity they delivered my lunch made at home to various parts of south Bombay (now Mumbai) wherever I was working.

There timely deliveries through intricate operations always aroused my interest to know them better. In 1967 I went to London. After a five-year stay I returned in 1972. Other preoccupations did not allow me to go beyond writing artiles in English and Marathi for newspapers and magazines. For everything the appropriate time has to occur. I did not take to book writing until 1998.

In January 2004 while I was completing writing my third book Exemplary CEOs I got in touch with Mr.Raghunath Medge, the president of their organization. I invited him and his colleague Mr.Gangaram Talekar for tea at my residence in Mahim. In that first meeting itself our chemistry matched.

Both Raghunath and Gangaram were pleased to know when that I was intending to write a book about their successful business. Thereafter we had many meetings at my place; I also visited their office in Andheri.

They were frank and jovial in their conversation. What liked them most was my in-depth probing on the values and belief system that nourishes them. Those anchors plus their competency in managing the daily complex operations is the source code of their enterprise sustainability for over 115 years.

Their humility honestly humbled me. Listening intently made me pensive. They opened their minds freely. Their utterance morphed in my mind unique connects in the supply chain of their `seed thoughts-to-sustained performance' of timely delivery. For me it was a meditative experience more than pleasant dialogues. At times the object of writing a book fell by the wayside during that enlivening process.

I am therefore excited to tell you the genesis of my search for a "story behind durable business success" because I have discovered insights between strong values and lasting success. The insights are shared here for all to enjoy. A glance at my thought process will provide you the rationale.

Dabawalas is published by Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited. Price: Rs 145.
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