Carried away by the 'dabbawalas'

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Pawan, who has done a Ph.D on the topic ‘A Study of Logistics and Supply Chain Management of Dabbawalas in Mumbai’, held the students captivated for nearly two hours.

Pawan, who runs a training centre for the dabbawalas, said that they feel serving food is like serving God. “Started in 1890 to deliver home food to a British officer, today, the dabbawalas serve 2,00,000 customers everyday.

They cover an area of 60 to 70 kilometres, travelling in busy and crowded local trains, carrying nearly 70 kg of weight on their head. Now the turnover of the business is Rs 12 crore per annum,” he said.

He disclosed some interesting stories about dabbawalas and the principles they follow.

“Though they are poor, uneducated and work in adverse conditions, they are cent per cent accurate in their work. They work on two principles — ‘Work is worship’ and ‘Customer is God’,” he added. He said that several management institutions from across the world have come down to Mumbai to study the working style of the dabbawalas.

Most of the students felt that the speech was informative and insightful. Seema, an MBA student, was thrilled to know more about the life of dabbawalas.

“I had read about them in a newspaper sometime back. I was fascinated by their success story. Today, Pawanji nicely spoke about their working mode. They are truly a role model for all management students,” she felt.

Kruthika, another student, was impressed by the entry made by Pawan Agarwal. “He was looking like a typical dabbawala wearing kurta, pyjama and cap holding a tiffin carrier. Most of the time, we think people like dabbawalas who form the lower strata of the society, are liars and not committed to work. But this seminar made me change my perception.

It is surprising that though they are poor, they are trustworthy. They have never stolen money or jewellery, which are sometimes sent back home in the tiffin box. I am impressed by their work ethics,” she said.

Many students liked the story about the meeting between Prince Charles’ and the
dabbawalas. “When Prince Charles wanted to meet them, they were not ready to delay their work. They asked him to come down to their place at a time convenient to them. When someone questioned them about it, a dabbawala said that Charles might be a king in England, but for the dabbawalas, the customer is the king. He didn’t want to delay the food for his king,” Pawan narrated.

“It’s amazing that there has been no police or court case against them in their 120 years of service. Their mode of sorting out problems, disciplined life and unity in the association are appreciable,” added Kruthika.

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