Mumbai’s dabbawalas as model

Image from Dabbawala Foundation



Mumbai’s Models of Service Excellence – Interesting article suggesting that Mumbai’s dabbawalas, the people who deliver lunches six days a week, serve as an example to managers of a well-designed delivery system.

The dabbawala service is legendary for its reliability. Since it was founded, in 1890, it has endured famines, wars, monsoons, Hindu-Muslim riots, and a series of terrorist attacks.

The opening paragraphs caught my attention, since as I write this Hurricane Sandy is pelting the U.S.’s eastern coast, leaving millions without electricity and transportation systems totally shut down:

In July 2005, Mumbai was battered by unusually heavy monsoon rains. In just 12 hours, more than 25 inches deluged India’s business capital. That, combined with record high tides, wreaked widespread havoc, bringing the city to a virtual standstill. As the water rose waist-high in many areas, people found themselves stranded at railway stations, in trains, and on roads and sidewalks.

Among them were many of Mumbai’s dabbawalas, who deliver meals prepared in customers’ homes to their offices and then return the empty dabbas (metal lunchboxes) the same day. Nevertheless, on the second day of the flooding, even before the city had limped back to life, the dabbawalas were back on the job, wading through the water. They quickly became a symbol of gritty resilience.

See more on dabbawalas here.


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