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Management Lessons From Mumbai Dabbawala Part 1- A Blog By Sanjeev Himachali


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Title: Management Lessons From Mumbai Dabbawala Part 1- A Blog By Sanjeev Himachali

Management Lessons From Mumbai Dabbawala Part 1
A couple of weeks ago I went to attend an event
organized by one of the HR Forums HR Enlight.
Dr. Pawan Agrawal, a speaker, author, and
educationist, who has done extensive research
work on Dabbawalas, titled as A Study of
Logistics and Supply Chain Management of
Dabbawala in Mumbai" was the keynote speaker of
the evening. He has delivered over 500 talk
sessions across the globe. Well, this story is
neither about HR Enlight nor about Dr. Pawan
Agarwal. This story is about Dabbawalas and
corporate lessons we can learn from them. Lets
first understand the basics
WHO Mumbai Dabbawalas is a group of over 5,000
individuals, brought together by a common
mission of carrying homemade food for over
200,000 customers across 60-70 KMS in Mumbai
region. They must not be confused with caters
because they dont cook food for clients. They
just carry food from one place to another and
return empty boxes back. They have a customer
base of over 250,000which translates into daily
transactions of 500,000 turns. Annual
transactions are 156,000,000 (156 million) with
an accuracy level of 99.9999 (as per Six Sigma
Study Report) and On-Time-Delivery of over
98.5. WHAT Mumbai Dabbawalas carry homemade
food from the houses of customers, deliver it to
them in their offices before lunch hour and then
carry the empty tiffin boxes and drop at their
homes. WHERE They work in the financial city of
India Mumbai. They provide their services
within a diameter of around 60-70 KMS. WHEN
Dabbawala Service was started in 1890 by Mahadeo
Bhavaji Bachche. In the beginning, it delivered
food to a British officer and a Parsi Banker,
however, soon it transformed into a flourishing
business. Bachche started a lunch delivery
service with a hundred men working with him. He
informally unionized the Dabbawalas in 1930. In
1956, a charitable trust under the name of Nutan
Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust was
registered. Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers
Association is the name under which the
commercial arm of the Trust was finally
registered in 1968. WHY A question is often
asked, WHY people in Mumbai cannot carry their
lunchboxes? Why do they need someone to carry
their tiffins? In Mumbai, due to heavy traffic,
it takes long hours to reach office. If someone
needs to travel for 35-40 KMS to reach his office
by 8 AM, he must start from his home at least by
6 AM. Longer the distance, earlier he must start.
So, if he has to start at 6 AM, his wife or
mother must wake-up by 430 AM to prepare his
breakfast and lunch. Food cooked at 5 AM will be
eaten by the person during lunch break at 1 PM.
The cold food doesnt taste good nor is it
healthy for the body. Moreover, its strenuous
to travel by overcrowded local trains with one
hand on office bag and other holding lunch box.
Thats why they use the service of Dabbawala, who
pick-up lunchboxes at 9 AM and delivers to the
customers by 1230 PM. The clients of Dabbawalas
are average middle-class people who cannot
afford to eat outside food, every day. HOW
These Dabbawalas carry lunchboxes barefoot, in a
carter over their head they use bicycles and
local train services. They use a complex coding
system to identify each lunchbox. The coding
system comprises of colours, numbers, symbols
and alphabets. Every resident pickup group is
given a code, which is an alphabet or
combination of alphabets. Destination station is
identified by a symbol. Destination pickup group
is given a code, which is numeric. Destination
Address is given an Alpha- Numeric code. For
resident coding and destination coding, different
colours are used. Each Dabbawala is governed by
THREE principles Work is Worship Customer is
God, and there is no substitute for hard
work. One might argue that carrying tiffins from
one place to another and to return them is quite
a simple task, what makes it so distinguished
and whats there to learn from it. Well, learning
lies in the
complexity of the system. To add to the
complexity is the education level of these
Dabbawalas, most of them are illiterate, and
who cannot even explain the address of their
customer to a stranger. They work in
many-to-many structure and yet deliver lunchboxes
to their customers accurately, on time,
consistently, every day, and day after day. You
can read Management Lessons From Mumbai Dabbawala
Part 1 Management Lessons From Mumbai Dabbawala
Part 2 Please share your views. About Us With
multiple successes achieved through driving
commercially embedded HR strategy and programs
across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, USA, and
Hong Kong, Sanjeev Himachali, Talent Strategist
Management Consultant exhibits over a decade and
a half years of progressive, leadership
experience and core competencies in talent
acquisition, management, and development, HR
program management, compensation benefits
management, and staff engagements. In January
2015 he launched Ecliptic HR Solutions to
provide strategic human resource and talent
management consulting across BFSI,
Manufacturing, Automobile, IT ITES, Telecom,
Retail, and FMCG sectors. As a Talent Strategist,
Sanjeev partners with organizations hiring
managers to find, select, and hire top talent
which exemplifies firms values and provides a
foundation for organizations future
growth. Sanjeev is adept at expediting change
management through leadership, differentiated
talent models, attracting and developing the
best talent, and building a culture of
engagement, agility, and innovation. He has
proved to be a trusted advisor to organizational
leadership in initiating human capital
management strategies and aligning HR best
practices and processes with organizational
objectives. As a Management Consultant, Sanjeev
is credited with pioneering best practice HR
systems and processes for clients that brought a
new era of employer brand visibility and saw the
companys HR systems heralded among the industry
best. Sanjeev has championed psychometric
assessment DISC and Thomas Profiling, and
developed Managerial Competency Framework for
clients, while simultaneously deploying
succession planning strategies for high profile
roles in organizations. He is highly experienced
in the organizational diagnosis and the design
and facilitation of events and staff development
activities including executive coaching. Sanjeev
has earned his MBA in HR and is certified in
MBTI, PPA Extended DISC Practice, and Green
Belt Lean Six Sigma. Contact Us Sanjeev
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