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Story of Dabbawalas

Inspiring Story of Dabbawalas

I’m sure most of you would have heard of the Dabbawalas (lunch box carriers) of Mumbai. They collect the lunch boxes with freshly cooked food from the houses of office workers and students, deliver it to their individual workplaces and schools. Later on, they return the empty lunch boxes to their residence.

Some amazing facts about Mumbai’s Dabbawalas,

  • Dabbawalas are not employees but each one of them is a self-employed entrepreneur. They are equal shareholders in the Dabbawalas Trust.
  • Approximately 5000 dabbawalas cover around 70 Sq. Km in and around Mumbai and carry out 400,000 transactions everyday.

  • Not a single piece of paper is used during this whole process. All dabbas have different numbers, colors or other symbols (colour coding system) so the dabbawalas can remember where to deliver a specific dabba.
  • Forbes magazine has appreciated their efficiency despite the complexity of the process. Their results are spectacular: one error in every 8 million deliveries, or 16 million if you include the return trip.


Colour Coding System of Dabbawalas

  • Dabbawalas are mostly illiterate or at least very low educated. An average dabbawala is educated upto 8th grade schooling.
  • Dabbawalas don’t rely on modern technology to work their supply chain. They rely mainly on manpower (recently they started taking delivery requests through SMS).
  • The service is almost always uninterrupted, even on the days of inclement weather conditions (eg. monsoons).
  • From Prince Charles to Richard Branson, dabbawalas have won fans all over the world for their management skills. When Prince Charles visited them during his visit to India, he had to fit in with their schedule, since their timing was too precise to permit any flexibility.

Prince Charles with Dabbawalas

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson with Dabbawalas

  • Business schools, Universities and Corporate from all over the world invite Dabbawalas to give lecture on their Management skills.
  • Dabbawalas are certified to the international standard: ISO 9001 in recognition of their reliable quality management system.
  • This is probably the most environment-friendly enterprise, with zero percent fuel usage, using existing public transportation (trains), bicycles and handcarts to get the job done. (that’s awesome!)

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Harish Kotra

Harish Kotra

Self-taught Web Designer, Blogger and an Android Enthusiast. Techie Author at and founder of, Loves Web, Wordpress & World (WWW).