India's Best-known and Most Efficient
Networking - the Mumbai's Dabbawala
Just like the
saying goes, Rome was not built in a
day. A similar philosophy could perhaps
be applied to the Dabbawala system and
all its fame.
Although some may
look down upon this business, yet its
impact on the lives of the Mumbai-vasis
cannot be ignored. Dabba is a Hindi word
for a tiffin container and dabbawala
means a person who carries these
containers - what is commonly known as 'bhuti'
in Konkani. The word itself brings to
one's mind the home-made food and its
aroma; the rest of it just follows.
I have seen them
right from the time I was a kid. As I
would get ready to go to school, the
dabbawala would come at the gate of the
building gate and wait with his bicycle.
My mom would just hurry for the only
reason is that the dabbawala would wait.
My mom is usually
a person who does not bother even if her
husband would wait for hours for her nor
would she hurry for someone's wedding or
funeral. However, the dabbawala is the
only person whom my mom was punctual
towards, or would reports to on time,
For those who have
not heard about the dabbawalas or about
their service, this topic would come as
a nuance. Let me explain the whole funda
of the dabbawala and their business.
I have not studied
them for long. But having seen them
right from the time when I was small
until I could complete my college, I can
confidently say, they have all the
business management qualities which are
essential for an MBA to possess.
The tiffin carrier
service is believed to have originated
in the 19th century. These are people
who pick up tiffins from homes and
deliver to offices, and this practice is
prominent among people travelling in the
crowded trains of Mumbai, hiring the
services of the dabbawalas. Yet, for all
that, the fee charged is minimal.
They start with
the first team of people who go around
for their pick-up rounds in the morning
from the residential areas and deliver
the consignment to the nearest railway
role of the other team comes up to take
it from the first railway station to the
railway station closest to the
destination. The next team takes charge
of collecting the dabbas from that
station to the exact destination.
In spite of the
all the dabbas being similar in their
appearance, there is hardly any report
of a wrong dabba being delivered. The
secret behind this is a widely-used
system employed to separate them with
some sort of a code.
And one of the most significant
incidents on my mind is that when we had
shifted our residence, the change in the
dabbawala became a matter of great
My dad was
enjoying the freshly-packed lunch from
home. Although it was being delivered to
his office hot at lunchtime by the
dabbawala, he had spoken to the
dabbawalas just at one instance, that
too, when he had enrolled himself on
their list. And when we approached a
dabbawala in Malad, we had to go through
a long round of investigation.
may be the cause of disagreement with
any dabbawala, there is always unity
among them. If one of them has some
"uncch-nichh" (argument) with any of
their customers then no one - mind you,
absolutely no one in the whole of Mumbai
Dabbawala Committee - would agree to
deliver the dabba for you.
Moreover, words of
the dabbawalas are regarded as arrows
sent through the bows, which cannot be
taken back. Whatever is said once cannot
be changed. If a holiday is declared by
the committee, no matter what happens,
they would not go back on that.
But their story
does not end here. There is a lot to
learn from them. Even Prince Charles was
greatly inspired by them during his
visit to India, so much so that for his
wedding he invited the dabbawalas to
England. The most remarkable aspect of
this was that no one else from India was
Let it be a news
channels or other source of media and
communication, they portrait the picture
of these dabbawalas as an ultimate
example of unity and solidarity. The BBC
has produced a documentary on dabbawalas.
So, friends, all
of you who have read this and are just
concentrating on their work profile or
on their community, take a cue,
inspiration and get motivated by them
and live united as a community.
This is where each
one is concerned about the welfare of
the other. Perhaps the most suitable
message for the mankind