Now, English classes for Mumbai's dabbawalahs

Classes for the nearly 5,000 dabbawalahs of Mumbai will be conducted on Sundays at their office at Dadar besides the office of Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU) Grant Road and Agrawal Management Institute at Vikroli.

"For last 120 years, the dabbawallahs have been feeding the working community of the capital but never got an opportunity to take higher education and improve their lot," YCMOU Vice Chancellor R Krishnakumar said.

"Now YCMOU has decided to take them up to graduation soon and one day the dabbawalah will be able to tell you where your tiffin box is at a given moment through object-tracking skill," Krishnakumar said.

Speaking on behalf of the tiffin deliverymen, Gangaram Talekar said they now have an opportunity after 120 years and won't let it go. He also promised Krishnakumar to speak to him in English in their next meeting.

Although most of workers in that team of 5,000 dabbawallahs are illiterate or school drop-outs, it was lauded with six sigma accuracy of 99.99 per cent by Forbes magazine in January. A survey conducted by Forbes in 1998 shows only one error in 6 million transactions of dabbawalahs.

Dabbawalahs' organisation received ISO 9001 certification in 2000 for their service to the nation. They caught the fancy of England's Prince Charles during his visit to India in 2000. He had spent his day time admiring their work and invited two dabbawalas to his wedding party with Camila Parker.

The dabbawalahs have fans spread across the globe including Virgin Group's Richard Branson. They are known for their management skills even without a computerised tracking system.

Dabbawalahs, known for their food-supply network across Mumbai, are being asked to impart lessons on management and business skills to the corporate world. One such presentation by dabbawalahs on time management, customer satisfaction, loyalty, error-free methods and other skills was given to top industry professionals in Mumbai recently and in 2004, they even went to IIM Lucknow to give a presentation of their skills to the management students.

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