Mumbai Dabbawala – “Share My Dabba ” Initiative

The Mumbai dabbawala story is a story which will make you feel proud and at the same time humble you.  The Mumbai Dabbawala’s  Share My Dabba  Initiative will increase your love and respect for them .The dabba delivery is six sigma certified, meaning that there is only one mistake in six million deliveries. Wow – that’s a great achievement. The precision with which the dabbawalas deliver these dabbas with home cooked food is awesome and worth a deeper understanding. Harvard University had taken it up as a case study and was very impressed with the results that they found.

Lets us understand some of the important nuances about the Mumbai Dabbawala and their innovation in the project   “Share My Dabba”.

In 2005, when Mumbai was completely battered with the unusually high monsoon rains and everything was out of control. But yet the dabbawalas were the first Mumbaikars to return back to work. Their sheer resilience and focus inspired many and Mumbai was back to normal within two days.

The dabbawala story started around 125 years ago when a Parsi banker wanted his home cooked food delivered to his office .Thus what started as a small thing has now blossomed into a full-fledged efficient business. Everyday 5000 dabbawalas are efficiently delivering 130,000 dabbas. They work six days a week with great efficiency and minimal mistakes.

It is intriguing to know that these semiliterate dabbawalas manage a very high level of performance at a very low cost and in an ecofriendly manner.

Some of the important points to be understood while understanding their way of functioning are given below –

  1. They are completely dependent upon the Mumbai railways for their transport. In the morning the dabbawala goes to their customer’s homes and pick up the dabbas. These are then transported by bicycle to the nearest railway station.
  2. The dabbas are then sorted out according to their destination and arranged in wooden crates. They just have 40 to 50 seconds to load the dabbas in the overcrowded trains.
  3. Each dabba has a code which clearly denotes the destination of the dabba. The code is made of symbols and numbers. Most of the dabbawalas follow the same routine for years and are able to easily decipher these codes and deliver the dabbas to the right destination. Visual codes are always better for human minds.
  4. There is uniformity in the dabbas. All of them are of the same cylindrical size which helps in better handling.
  5. For the return of the dabbas, the same process is again followed in the reverse order.
  6. They have some strict rules like they don’t eat their lunch until all the deliveries are made. For repeated mistakes the workers are fined or even fired from their job.
  7. They have a strict time adherence and so customers are encouraged to keep their dabbas ready. Repeated late dabbas are dropped off.

Recently, the dabbawalas started a very unique campaign. Though they are trying to implement it in some parts of Mumbai and see how it gains popularity, it is amazing to see how this new initiative works.

“Share my dabba” is an initiative carried out in collaboration with Mumbai Dabbawalas and Happy Life Welfare Society, which is a nonprofit organization. This initiative makes use of the leftover food in your dabba by delivering the food to our hungry street children using the same dabbawala network. All you have to do is to put a red sticker of “Share my dabba” thus marking your dabba. The dabbawalas separate these red sticker dabbas (tiffin’s) and hand over the same to the Happy Life Welfare Society volunteers who are present near the railway station on their way back home. The volunteers then collect the food from these dabbas and give the food to the street children and poor people in the vicinity.

Though the idea is very small, it does seem to have the ability to impact and tackle the starvation problem in the city. As more and more people become aware of this “Share my dabba” Initiative, they could voluntarily keep some extra food in their tiffin’s in order to participate in this noble cause and thus be a part of this wonderful social movement, which has to power to touch the lives of the less fortunate.

If you are one of those who enjoy your home cooked meals through the dabbawala service, then it’s time to join hands together and partner with the Mumbai Dabbawala’s in this wonderful initiative of “Share My Dabba “.

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