Exploring the world of Mumbai Dabbawalas

Exploring the world of Mumbai Dabbawalas

At a time when cellphones have become an inseparable part of everybody’s life, irrespective of time and place, it is a strict no during work for them. They may be illiterates, but still they can crack the code in ‘English’ with ease. On foot and through local train service, they travel 60 to 65 km daily, carrying equal baggage weight, and yet they reach their customers on time.

They are the dabbawalas of Mumbai, who, with their 125 year-old history, are reckoned to be a force in supplying midday meals. At an interaction during a meet, organised by Young Indians, a branch of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), at Vidyvardhaka College of Engineering (VVCE) on Saturday here, Chief Executive Officer of Mumbai Dabbawalas’ Association Pavan Agarwal elaborated on the history and the style of functioning of the ‘lunch box carriers’ with the help of a power-point presentation.

Agarwal said dabbawalas emphasise on agility and accuracy  with customer satisfaction being the only motto. Perfection in work should not be marred by delay, Agarwal observed. Citing an example, Agarwal said they cannot afford to be lax in work with nine hours job on hand.

“The box should be collected from the right person and delivered to right customer on time. An exchange of pleasantries with customers and a call on cellphone may delay the job. If a non-vegetarian food is delivered to a veggie, one can imagine the reaction of the customer,” said Agarwal on accuracy, sending the audience into peels of laughter.

A majority of the dabbawalas in Mumbai are illiterates, yet they can understand the coding in English (of destinations) and there is never a mistake in over the 100-year-old history. What started by default with one dabbawala and one customer has now grown into 5,000 dabbawalas and two lakh customers, said Agarwal.

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