Mumbai ‘dabbawalas’ are an example of time management


It is rightly said that "Work is Worship & Customer First is their Mantra". Recently I got an opportunity to attend an Interactive Session on "Mumbai Dabbawala Association" addressed by the Management Guru Dr. Pawan Agarwal- CEO - Mumbai Dabbawala Association. Really I was shocked to hear & see over the Power Point Presentation how a simple man can manage his business much better than trained managers. I also felt that successful businesses in India and around the world are not necessarily run by managers passing out of IIMs as we think and for this the famous Dabbawala of Mumbai is an example. Popularly known as Mumbai's Dabbawallas, they show us how their establishment is managed to supply, without any hitches, 2,70,000 lunch boxes everyday in the busy metropolis of Mumbai.
In the words of Dr. Pawan Agarwal, I would say that "Consistency is the key to ensure a meticulous network with an error rate of just one in 16 million transactions. At the end of the day its just effective team work,"and "Dabbawala organisation is the only one in India and the second in the world who had got six-sigma rating". Dabbawalas are synonymous for simplicity,most of the enterprises have around 270,000 transactions daily - 150,000 boxes are delivered to offices every morning and 150,000 are returned home every afternoon viz. six days a week, 51 weeks a year which comes to nearly 80 million annual deliveries. I feel that Dabbawalas are indeed management gurus. They prove how no formal education but intuition and planning can help to achieve great results. The corporate ideals of teamwork, dedication and accuracy are reflected with a whole new perspective.
I would like to share that Mumbai Dabbawallas are a perfect example of an important principle of both business and management viz. The thirst to serve customers in a simple yet effective fashion without falling into the technology trap. I think this is an aspect which needs to be re-learnt and implemented in any organisation today.There is a three-point formula behind their success - that is of discipline, code of conduct and hard work. The only thing that differentiates them from other organisations is the utmost importance which they give to customers' satisfaction.
Dr. Agarwal pointed out that "The Dabbawalas do not have any time to waste while on duty and the main objective is customer satisfaction when the delivery is made.”
I conclude that the most enduring lesson that we learnt was to put the customer ahead of everything else. I would like to quote here an example that when Prince Charles expressed a desire to meet them during his Mumbai visit in 2003, the Dabbawallas requested him to schedule the meeting such that it did not interfere with their mid-day delivery timings.The most surprising thing is that without any technological backup and logistical support, they perform their duty with utmost precision. In terms of employment or in terms of gaining new customer, recommendation plays an important part in the entire eco-system. The satisfied customers proudly refer their friends and relatives to these Dabbawalas.
Lastly, the most interestingthing to note is that there is no retirement age, because any person can work till he is fit enough to carry on the tasks required of him.One can't believe but Dabbawala's service in Mumbai proves that hard work, honesty and assiduousness is the only way to success. I feel, we can learn lot about the time management and marketing from Dabbawalas. Don't we? Hats Off to Mumbai Dabbawalas.
(Views expressed are personal)

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