LEARN TO EARN; LEARN TO TEACH

Dabbawala Association

1. No Poverty 2. Zero Hunger 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 10. Reduced Inequalities

Overview

Having been aware that "everyone everywhere cannot get a good education but one can still do what one is good at" was an ethos which Mr. Mahadeo Havaji Bachche nurtured. Touched by pain and fired with the spirit to lend a hand to uplift poverty and illiteracy, which were the main tribulations, inspired him to think of this innovative business and the seed of “The Dabbawala Association” was planted.

This seed has now grown into a huge Oak Tree, spreading its branches over the ever growing metropolitan city, lifting many from the clutches of poverty & pangs of hunger.

They did not seek sophisticated means of transportation or advanced technologies, but they converted the existing local means of transport and human capital as a successful combination to start, run, expand & diversify their business.

Author

Ashutosh Bhattarai

Ashutosh Bhattarai

School

S. S. Dempo, College of Commerce and Economics, Goa

S. S. Dempo, College of Commerce and Economics, Goa

Professor

Megan Buchter

Megan Buchter

Innovation

"The World is beautiful. You'll see its beauty only if you reach IN TIME." The Dabbawala Association believes that "There is no elevator to success; we have to take the stairs."

The ‘Dabbawala Association’ is a primeval association, based on an army of men, mostly barefoot, who are semi literate (mostly studied up to 8th standard), using mass public transportation like the train, and at times a bicycle, to convey the meals, using reusable, steel or aluminum containers for delivery.

What's more, before returning the tiffin box back to the customer, a lot of uneaten food will remain in the tiffin box. These foods are then collected and kept aside in few clean vessels. These foods are then served to the poor beggars of mumbai. In two years, food worth RS. 4 million( USD 55000 approx) is being saved and served to the poor.

Hardworking men, in a typical local attire of a white shirt and white loose pajama pants, move from door to door, on their bicycle or cart, picking up the dabbas/lunches, at a pre-fixed time. Their work, while seemingly simple, is quite challenging and involves commuting all over the dense urban population to pick up & then to deliver the lunches, in time, despite the typical train delays and traffic chaos. Their primary clients are middle class employees who prefer homemade food to the restaurant meals – not only from the hygiene point of view, but also as it is cost effective.

It is an almost magical clockwork type system, which befuddles the most imaginative & educated mind. Furthermore, every individual participant coming from diverse communities & areas, demonstrate a perfect example of teamwork and commitment.

- They collect the fresh, home cooked food filled ‘Dabbas’ by personally reaching out daily, door-to-door, at a pre-fixed time.

- All the collected “Dabbas” are consolidated, at a singular reporting station, for sorting.

- They follow their own distinctive coding system, with markings & colors, to ensure that the “Dabbas” reach the right place, at the right time.

- These “Dabbas” are then sorted and assigned to the respective individuals for transportation through a pre-fabricated, rectangular, wooden, head borne carrier.

- Each of these carriers, carried on the heads by the allotted person, holds at least 30 “Dabbas”;

- The person then goes out for delivery by train or using their bicycle -depending upon the distance & convenience of the delivery location.

- After delivery of their quota of the “Dabbas” to every client, they have their own lunch; and after this the post lunch schedule is put into action.

- They do a re-run to again collect the empty “Dabbas” and follow almost the same steps, reversely, to return the “Dabba” or the Tiffin Box, back to the respective homes, from where they have been collected.

- Before delivering the Dabbas, they check to see if there's food in the dabbas. If uneaten food is there, they segregate the wet and dry foods in different vessels.

- They collect the uneaten food and distribute it to the poor homeless and helpless people around the city.

- It is amazing to note that in over 200,000 daily transaction of pick up & delivery of dedicated meal boxes from homes to the respective office desk, the ratio of a mistake or misplacement of these Tiffin boxes is 1:16 million deliveries. This is a management record in itself, especially taking into account the educational level & the quantum of service provided in a fixed frame of time.

LEARN TO EARN; LEARN TO TEACH

Inspiration

A man with his hundred men team were inspired to provide jobs to semi literate groups of people in neighboring villages of Mumbai. Poverty and illiteracy were the main tribulations that inspired him to think of this innovative business -Dabbawala Association.

Overall impact

Busting of a myth: The concept of higher education for higher employee ratio & revenue generation was proved a myth. The direct positive impact on the 5,000 semi & non-literate individuals, identified as the “Dabbawalas”, classified as not educated enough to work and earn, can clearly be seen.

Zero hunger campaign with food preservation : There are millions of people in the world, who die because of poverty. The left-over food that is collected from tiffin boxes, serves thousand's of empty stomach everyday for free.

Improvement of Health by home diet: The dependency on consuming outdoor catered junk food, led to health problems in the working class people. With the inception of the “Dabbawala” reaching home cooked food at work, without any hassle not only saved him or her time, but he or she could eat healthy, home cooked food - fresh & warm, at their desk.

Assured Lifelong Employment: The most positive outcome of this Association, has been that it offers a guarantee of an assured life time job for whomever wishes to earn a respectable living through hard work. This opening has come as a boon to those below the poverty line or those who have been unemployed.

Business benefit

Starting from about a 100 unemployed and illiterate men to 5,000 strong, enthusiastic men, The Dabbawala Association has gained a lot along their journey, as well as educated & enlightened many souls about looking for options when there seem to be none.

The Association is intensifying its market, out of Mumbai as well. Due to the infusion of umpteen corporate business houses, the employment rate in the city of Mumbai has increased in leaps & bounds. On the contrary, the Dabbawalas are not only delivering lunch boxes, but they have upgraded to carry out as ‘Brand ambassadors” to “advertise” many household brands, as they go door-to-door, as well as have access to offices, meeting over 200,000 individuals.

Apart from delivery services, they are now planning to include a variety of allied & other products, in their business. They are now preparing to deliver homemade lunches, cooking on their own, along with a few milk-based products.

This is the most cost effective social service that a working class person can take advantage of, with huge subsidiary health & time benefits. While the Service providers – The Dabbawalas charge a nominal fee of Indian Rupees (INR). 250/- (an equivalent of around USD $4) per month, from each customer. At this, every employee manages to earn around INR Rs. 5000/- to INR Rs. 6000 Indian rupees ($92-$100) per month, to sustain their families.

Social and environmental benefit

Global Authentication: Dabbawalas are now recognized globally. With their highly efficient and effective working system, they're able to be recognized as an organization with certificates of Six Sigma ISO 9001:2000 Certificate and Guinness book of world records.

Environmental Benefits:

- The problem of disposing and dumping uneaten food will indirectly harm the environment. Instead of disposing, Dabbawalas collected that food and serve it to poor people.

- They use reusable materials to deliver the lunch boxes (Dabbas), hence neither do they create any pollution, nor harm the environment.

Time Management: Most importantly, the Dabbawalas create a positive impact on the value of time to the society.

Social Benefits: Once the clients’ lunch is over, the lunch boxes (Dabbas) are collected from the respective customers; and then small informative chits are placed in those boxes as advertisements for various respective events like - aids awareness and other preventive schemes.

The Crowning glory for the Dabbawalas came when Prince Charles, heir to the British Throne, made a special visit to the Dabbawala Association to apprise himself of this amazing service. More so, the President of the Dabbawala Association was sent a special invitation to attend the Prince Charles & Lady Diana marriage in the UK.

The Dabbawala service from Mumbai also has another feather in its crown. Many international Management Institutions are studying the highly precisely timed & proficient working methodology of the Dabbawala Association, given the adverse conditions that they work in.

This Organization inspired lots of startups, like anadaata.com, to follow their footsteps in doing business for good.

Interviews

Anand Talekar, Spokesperson

Anand Talekar, Spokesperson

Anand Talwkar, Spokesperson

Keep this story going! Share below!

Dabbawala Association

Dabbawala Association

Dadar, Maharashtra, India

Business Website: http://mumbaidabbawala.in/

Year Founded: 1890

Number of Employees: 1001 to 5000

The Dabbawala Association was founded with the basic objective to provide jobs and a means of respectable livelihood to semi or non-literate groups of people of the neighboring suburban villages of metropolitan Mumbai, India.

This association was founded by one, Mahadeo Havaji Bachche, in 1890 with just over a 100 men. Having been aware that ‘Everyone everywhere cannot get a good education but one can still do what one is good at’ was an ethos which he nurtured. Touched by pain and fired with the spirit to lend a hand to uplift poverty and illiteracy, he was inspired to think of this innovative business and the seed of “The Dabbawala Association” was planted.

This seed has now grown into a huge Oak Tree, spreading its branches over the ever growing metropolitan city, lifting many from the clutches of poverty & pangs of hunger.

They did not seek sophisticated means of transportation and/or advanced technologies, but they converted the existing local means of transport and human capital as a successful combination to start, run, expand & diversify their business.

The prime objective to commence this food lifeline was, not only to create jobs, but minimize the specter of poverty and offer fresh home cooked food from their homes to their offices. The name “Dabbawalla” comes from the inter-locking, compartmentalized, steel or aluminum combo of a Tiffin Box called in the local dialect the “Dabba”. Freshly home cooked food is packed separately – solid & gravy, in each compartments & locked for facilitation in carrying the same.

A very enthusiastic team of around 4,500 to 5,000 hard working people, carry over 200,000 Tiffin boxes of freshly cooked meals, picked up from individual homes and then delivered to the respective destination, in time, for lunch. They, very professionally, not only deliver the box, but also return it safely back to the home from where it was initially picked up from.