The Dabbawalla’s of Mumbai, India.

India Authentic
India Authentic

Hey, talking about the Mumbai terrorists attack as reported by news everywhere (and also compiled by myself below :)), I remembered few weeks ago, my group members and I, which is Tania, Wei-wei and I, was doing a presentation about Dabbawalla of Mumbai, India. This presentation was presented in Supply Chain Management (SCM 607) class. Here is the short video from you tube that preceded our presentation.

So, anyway, let me describe a little bit about this Dabbawalla’s (actually I copied these from my fellow blogger writings hahaha).

A “dabba,” in local Indian parlance, is a lunch box or tiffin with home cooked food; the person who delivers it is called the “dabbawala.” The name, however, has long lost its generic connotation and is associated with one of the most innovative organizations worldwide in supply chain management: the dabbawalas.

What started as a service during the British colonial rule has evolved into a brand that symbolizes low cost innovation, teamwork, and brilliance in operational efficiency.

As the day begins in the commercial capital of India-Mumbai, the doughty dabbawalas strut across the hustle-bustle of busy streets collecting tiffin boxes. The dabbawalas deliver warm lunches from the homes of customers, and the women who work in those households usually decide what is being served. Traditionally the process has been conducted via personal networks, but today dabbawalas have websites in place to facilitate the process. A total of 5000 dabbawalas move almost 200,000 lunches everyday, an activity that has been carried on with utmost precision and punctuality for over a decade now.


The local trains of Mumbai are the mainstay of the dabbawalas’ impeccable supply chain process. Having become indispensable to the quotidian activity of office goers and businessmen, the brand has come to acquire tremendous goodwill amongst its customers and employees alike. Ever since their, they have never gone on a strike.


The mainstay of the entire organization is these workers-turned-shareholders. This uneducated workforce of men, with very little exposure to technology, has become the most potent brand ambassadors of the organization, with unflinching standards of teamwork and customer service. There is only one error in every 600,000 deliveries—a service standard which has earned them the Six Sigma Certification for Quality. Such has been their impact that leading business schools like Stanford.

The dabbawalas have never carried out self-branding exercises via advertisements or promotions to build their brand. The credibility associated with the brand has largely been acquired through word of mouth and buzz.


Leading brands in India—in an effort to increase their own brands’ outreach and goodwill within the local consumer marketplace—have started exploring synergies with the dabbawalas. Microsoft, for example, used the dabbawalas to promote its Windows package for a campaign called “Asli PC,” meaning “Genuine PC.” Airtel, India’s leading telecom provider, used the network of dabbawalas to deliver and promote handsets, new connections, and pre-paid user cards.

They believe in Trust and Commitment.

Some Key Features

Organization- Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association

  • History: Started in 1880
  • Avg. Literacy Rate: 8th Grade Schooling
  • Avg. area coverage: 60 Km per Tiffin Box 
  • Employee Strength: 5000
  • Number of Tiffins: 200000 Tiffin Boxes i.e. 400000 transactions every day.
  • Time taken: 3 hrs (9 am – 12 pm delivery of carriers, 2 pm – 5 pm collection of  empty carriers)
  • Cost of service: Rs.200/month
  • Turnover: Rs.50 crore per month approx.


Time Management

  • 10:34- 11:20 am- Lunch boxes are loaded onto train- usually the last compartment
  • 11:20-12:40- Unloading & rearrangement of lunch boxes, followed by delivery process
  • 2:48-3:30pm- Return journey after collecting tiffins from various places
  • 3:30- 4:00pm – Final sorting & dispatch

Awards & Felicitation

  • Documentary made by BBC
  • World record in Best Time Management
  • Name in ‘Guiness Book of Records’
  • Registered with ‘Ripley’s Believe it or not’


Logistics is happening 24hrs a day,  7 days a weeks

Logistical competency is achieved by coordinating the following:

  • Network Design
  • Information
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Warehousing


  • No alcohol while on duty (fine $25)
  • Wearing white cap business hours- potent symbol of identification in crowded railway stations. Not wearing it attracts fine of  $.50
  • Carry ID cards
  • 6 month probation period

Interesting isn’t. If yes, you’re not the only one who felt this. Most of our class members felt the same :).


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