They have been serving piping hot lunches from home to office-goers in Mumbai for many decades now. Known as ‘Dabbawalas' they have become synonymous with Mumbai and the spirit of its people.

Blistering sun or deluge, bomb blasts or riots they keep up with their noble profession of delivering food without fail. So much so that, the Forbes Magazine found it eligible for six sigma standard for its reliability while their service is also ISO 9001:2000 certified for accuracy and customer satisfaction.

“It is the passion that keeps them going for the last 120 years. More than the returns, it is the satisfaction that they derive from feeding people that is more important for them. They know the value of service,” Pawan G. Agrawal, management guru with a Ph.D in the supply chain management of Mumbai Dabbawala, toldThe Hinduon Friday about the success mantra of Dabbawalas that has enchanted even top notch business schools from far and wide.

Every day Dabbawalas numbering 5,000, including six or seven women, wearing their all too familiar white caps pick up dabbas (tiffin boxes) packed with fresh hot meals prepared at the homes of about two lakh office-going Mumbaikars and deliver them at their place of work right at the time of lunch. Once the lunch is finished the emptied dabbas are taken back to the homes.

So how do they keep an ever growing number of customers satisfied over such a long period? “They belong to the Varakari Sampradaya (tradition) and are ardent devotees of Lord Vithal. The same devotion they bring to their work. For them serving food is equal to serving god. Customers are like god to them and they want to serve them honestly,” Mr. Agrawal said.

In a city notorious for its chaotic traffic, they go about their work in clockwork precision. “Dabbawalas always take the local trains. And from the station they cycle their way to offices evading traffic jams,” Mr. Agrawal said.

On an average a Dabbawala delivers 40 dabbas a day and earns about Rs. 8,000-9,000 a month. Those looking for additional remuneration do other jobs in the evening. But never will they fleece their customers, he said.

Besides, these days they have an additional income as companies found them efficient agents for propagating their advertisements by virtue of their reach.

He said that replicating the model for Dabbawalas in other places would be difficult. He attributes this to two reasons; the geographical structure of Mumbai and its straight railway lines that cover a long distance in a stretch.

Keywords: Dabbawalas

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