Mumbai — “Dabbawalas” lunch Delivery System in India refers to an inexpensive economic system where hot homemade lunches are delivered to people at work and empties are picked up. Every day, over 5,000 delivery men deliver 200,000 lunchboxes in Mumbai.
Lunch Delivery System in India
The exclusive use of bicycles and railways for delivery is leading to zero consumption of fuel, and the use of reusable metal containers, which locals refer to as “Tiffin,” makes this an eco-friendly enterprise. Hot, healthy and fresh food, costing around $7-9 per month for some 20 meals, is delivered around the city. This service provides the citizens, especially the office going population, a nutritious alternative to fast food.
This supply-chain management system is unique to India and is known for its reliability and accuracy. The speed, efficiency and precision by which the Dabbawalas organize the preparation and delivery is virtually unheard of in any such system. It has been in existence now for over 100 years.
Forbes Magazine gives the operation of dabbawalas in India a Six Sigma rating, with an efficiency rating of 99.999999. There are simple but effective coding and tracking systems that allow Dabbawalas to effectively deliver lunch boxes to their customers. The coding system includes the destination and route of each lunch box. The Dabbawalas barely use technology or paperwork since most of them are not fully literate, yet they manage such high levels of accuracy. Some say the key is commitment and a sense of pride in the Dabbawala enterprise.
Supporting the Economy and Employing Women
This system promotes self-employment and entrepreneurship not just for the Dabbawalas but also for women who cook the food in a centralized kitchen. The food preparation is customized to the customers’ preferences. In today’s world, when more women are pursuing careers outside the home, the Dabbawalas are offering a service where their wives do the cooking, thus supplementing household income. This provides employment for women at home in a convenient and effective way.
In tune with the changing times, today more women are joining the Dabbawala community and breaking into new roles, including food delivery. This leads to economic advancement and empowerment. Each Dabbawala earns an equal amount of around $150 a month, and they consider themselves as self-employed.
By slowly integrating technology into their system by allowing customers to use SMS services to order their lunch boxes, the Dabbawalas continue to increase their profits. Creating a website has also increased orders and enquiries. The business has been growing by 5-10 percent each year.
Helping the Poor and Reducing Food Waste
Dabbawalas in India started a ‘Roti Bank’ in 2015 to reduce food-wastage and feed the poor in Mumbai. By teaming up with caterers and wedding planners around the city, the Dabbawalas are using their unique network around the city to collect leftover food and distribute it to the poor and homeless. They are using their skills and are volunteering their time for this purpose. In fact, many Dabbawalas have been working after their shifts are over to pick up and deliver food and, thus, use this decentralized system for the good of the community.
The “Share My Dabba” campaign is another such effort to encourage customers to share leftover food, which can be distributed to the poor by Dabbawalas. This helps in addressing issues of economic inequality and food waste.
Even though food delivery apps such as UberEats and Zomato are gaining traction in Mumbai, they do not have the popularity of the Dabbawalas. Here, it can be seen that in a bustling metropolis like Mumbai, the success of a unique food delivery system, which uses manual labor rather than automation, can continue to enjoy great success.
Dabbawalas in India have gained a reputation of being punctual, efficient and precise, and have a special place in the hearts of many in Mumbai. This operation shows how the ingenuity of people, even with a lack of technology, can create products and services that stand the test of time, and bring together local talent to touch both hearts and stomachs.
– Isha Kakar