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Secrets behind the success of Mumbai's dabbawallahs

May 28, 2009 11:49 IST

Secrets behind the success of Mumbai's dabbawallahs

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It is not only former railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav who caught the attention of Harvard Management School for turning around Indian Railways.

Now dabbawallahs, known for their food-supply network across Mumbai, are being asked to impart lessons on management and business skills to the corporate world.

One such presentation by dabbawallahs on time management, customer satisfaction, loyalty, error-free methods and other skills was given to top industry professionals in Mumbai recently.

Text: PTI


Image: Dabbawallahs of Mumbai.
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier's president Raghunath Medge, who delivered the presentation, said, "The method we adopt is simple and easy. For us, customer satisfaction matters a lot and we are here to deliver services to them."

"The dabbawallahs deliver tiffins at their destinations travelling by trains, bicycles or carts and do not seek help of modern gadgets in their business," Medge said.


Image: Dabbawallahs' boxes await delivery to their respective clients
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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Pawan Agrawal, who has researched on dabbawallahs, told PTI that recession has affected all businessmen but the dabbawalahs were not hit.

The slowdown has discouraged people to eat in hotels and most prefer to have home food, he said.

The Dabbawallahs do not go in for high-tech equipments but adopt easy and simple modes to perform their job, he said.


Image: A dabbawallah helps his colleague lift a crate full of tiffin boxes
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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Agrawal has penned a book Dabbawallas of Mumbai-Masters of Supply Chain Management which was released at a function organised by Bombay Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Mumbai recently.

"We have latest technology with us, we give appraisals to our employees and several other benefits to them, yet we have several issues within our organisation.

"But Dabbawalahs work in a simple manner with no such benefits and yet they give the best performance as workers," Agri Science (India) Pvt Ltd's chairman Limji Nanabhoy, who attended the presentation, said.


Image: Dabbawallahs often ferry huge crates of tiffin boxes in hand-driven carts
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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The century-old supply chain of dabbawallahs is operated by 5,000 semi-illiterate men and women who pick and deliver 2,00,000 tiffin boxes to office goers per day.

The average turnover of the dabbawallah industry is to tune of Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) per annum, Medge said in his presentation.


Image: A bicycle is also a usual mode of transport for Mumbai's dabbawallahs
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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"The recognition that we received from Prince Charles have made us very much famous worldwide. We are happy to receive such appreciation from all of them. It feels good that people are recognising our efforts and hard work," Medge said.

Professionals from various companies, including ICICI Bank, IDBI Capital Market Services, Forbes & Co Paramount Health Services Ltd; Dynamic Logistics, Chowgule Ports & Infrastructure, Blue Dart Express and Fortress Financial Services, participated in the presentation.


Image: Two dabbawallahs talk in a Mumbai street
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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