Last Saturday, I was very excited to know that a guest lecture by Mumbai Dabbawalas was going to be held. I was eager to learn from their experiences and interesting management practices. I got this great opportunity to attend an invigorating and an entertaining talk from Mr. Subodh Sangle, Coordinator and speaker, Mumbai Dabbawala and Mr. Nitin Sawant, a simple and humble Mumbai Dabbawala.
An audio visual followed by a documentary on the lives of Mumbai Dabbawalas was a perfect start to the enriching session. A wide round of applause followed the entertaining entry of a Mumbai DABBAWALA, Mr. Nitin Sawant on a bicycle carrying dabbas with Mr. Subodh Sangle.
Mumbai Dabbawalas carry 125 years of legacy as they deliver 200,000 tiffin boxes containing freshly made food from customer’s home to their work place every day with complete perfection. They became world renowned as a six sigma organization, and were evaluated by Harvard University, USA. The visits by eminent personalities like Prince Charles and Sir Richard Branson were enough to explain the reliable business model of Mumbai Dabbawalas that most companies would like to emulate. To get Six Sigma (3.4 defects to a million sample) with no fancy technology, is a remarkable achievement.99.99% success rate ON TIME, EVERY TIME is simply unbelievable!!
In any supply chain, collection of objects is first and most important step. The 200,000 tiffin boxes offer a huge customer database and magnificent opportunity for advertising and product sampling. However, they are responsible enough not to disturb customers with frequent advertisements because the customer satisfaction is the core priority on their agenda. Customer is not the ‘Raja’; Customer is the ‘Maharaja’ is their simple advice to budding managers like me.
DABBAWALAS are mostly semi-literate people of Warkari sect (devotees of Lord Vitthal) from rural Maharashtra. They are also believed to be descendants of warriors of Shivaji’s Army. Their goal this time is to deliver the right dabbed at the right time. The three hours of commute to the office is the “war time”. They are highly motivated people who believe that work is worship and serving people is like serving God. Their humility is the most important personality trait to be admired. They always give the credit of their work to their families including their wives and children. They never eat before delivering their dabbas to the customers and always eat their lunch in groups with the fellow Dabbawalas irrespective of any situation.
The boxes are colour coded to ensure the code can be understood even by illiterate people and reliable delivery of dabbas can be ensured. Trust, teamwork, and implicit understanding among Mumbai DABBAWALAS reduce cycle time and enhance quality.
The fact that they have been able to deliver these dabbas at such a reasonable price (Rs 400- Rs 800), left us shocked. Another interesting fact which I came to know is that they are the only logistics company which does not consume any fuel. In the words of Mr. Subodh Sangle, the unstated mission statement driving Mumbai DABBAWALAS is “Customer should not remain hungry”. Every question raised during the session was well answered by Mr.Sangle and acknowledged with a DABBAWALA cap. I was fortunate to be graced by him for the same.
The biggest takeaway however was how total commitment can work wonders to achieve any goal, even with limited resources.
This article is written by Sumit Ranjan of PGP2013-15. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org