September 13, 2008

Dabbe ka Funda: Dabbawalas of Mumbai

Though the journals, business articles, chain mails, even blogs have now made them something ‘common’, but meeting them leaves anyone overwhelmed. Here’s my encounter with the Dabbawalas while working at Infosys on September 5, 2008.

‘Astounding business run on Simplicity & Basics’, that’s what I gathered as Manish Tripathi Dabbawala wearing a Gandhi topi (cap) concluded his presentation. The most amusing fact among the many was when he stated that “all dabbawalas are ‘suitably’ educated.” The next best is when he claims “Prince Charles is our brand ambassador’.

Though the media has uncovered much about the Dabbawalas’ business, here go the same again—

  • The Dabbawala’s business dates back to 118 years
  • The inspiration / idea was conceived from a Parsi who ‘loved his wife’ and only preferred food prepared by her.
  • The business today generates Rs. 55 Crores, employing about 5000 people
  • The company employs no Chartered Accountants to manage their finances or other functions
  • All dabbawalas are shareholders in the company
  • The backbone of dabbawalas’ business is Discipline. In Manish Tripathi’s words ‘Dabbawala minus Discipline equals zero’
  • A business that boasts of ‘Generations of customers’
  • They owe a lot to the local trains running on time & cycles are their common means of transport for business.
  • Their six sigma winning coding system is a very simple combo of 3 codes including Area Code, Dabbawala code & destination building code’.
  • The values that run the system: Discipline, Work is Worship; Anndaan hi Mahadaan; Taking responsibility seriously

The company is featured in many world-known world-class documentaries, journals, magazines, shows including Harvard Business Review, Guinness Book of world records, Ripley’s believe it or not and many many others…

I heard they were to start their supply chain management consulting, but the latest from Manish Tripathi Dabbawala is that they’ve been invited to Australia for a seminar on ‘Going Green’ for contributing towards running their business without adding to pollution.

To close this, I'd share this part where Manish proudly exclaims "Richard Branson got clicked with a group of our Dabbawalas, and when asked by reporters why, he responded saying "I'd like to show this back to my folks as a sample of how one should be working"." Great going guys!

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