Software professionals crave for more `homemade food'

MEALS READY: A `dabbawalla' doing business at Electonics City in Bangalore. — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

MEALS READY: A `dabbawalla' doing business at Electonics City in Bangalore. — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash  

The advent of `dabbawallas' gives them an option

Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: Not as large or organised as the "dabbawalas" of Mumbai who caught the attention of Prince Charles, but growing in number are their counterparts in Bangalore.

The information technology (IT) industry and the business process outsouring (BPO) firms have attracted youth from throughout the country, particularly South India. They are bored with the routine and insipid fare in canteens and the "junk food".

They have been looking for healthy and affordable alternatives. The dabbawala has stepped in with "homemade" wholesome food neatly packed in carriers and delivered promptly at the workplace during the lunch break.

The IT professionals are a cosmopolitan lot and like homemade food, North Indian, Gujarati or Malayali fare. For those from Tamil Nadu, the local food is familiar enough and not too different. But they too need more variety than what the typical Udupi hotels or the fast food "darshinis" offer.

Keeping the employees well nourished with the food they are used to means better productivity. Human resource managers are aware that digestive problems along with homesickness can mean absenteeism and working hours lost.

To see the dabbawalas in action one must go either to Electronics City off Hosur Road or to the IT campuses along Sarjapur Road and Whitefield Road. Close to 300 such catering units are in operation, each serving the needs for a few hundred employees. Interestingly more non-vegetarian "dabbas" are delivered. Each meal costs around Rs. 25

Perhaps more than eating in the canteen but definitely less expensive than in a good restaurant and the portions are generous enough.

The dabbawalas do not need to really advertise; they have enough word-of-mouth publicity. Those who serve the best in terms of quality and quantity are known and are recommended to newcomers.

Suresh of Kolkata, now settled in BTM Layout, is credited with introducing the dabba system two years ago to Electronics City. Now he has a competitor, Prem Thapar from Nepal, settled in nearby Konappana Agarahara. Between them they serve close to 1,000 meals every day.

Another fallout of the IT boom has been restaurants and messes specialising in regional food.

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