Started their operations in the late 19th Century, the Dabbawalas (lunchbox carriers) of Mumbai have been fulfilling the hunger of over 2 lakh people in Mumbai everyday. Known for their white attire with a Gandhi cap, the strength of this network exceeds more than 5,000 dabbawalas. Mainly serving lunch to the office workers in small tiffin boxes every day from their home or preferred restaurants. The Mumbai Dabbawalas are one of the very first networks that introduced the concept of Food at Work.
But what is the reason behind operating such a huge-scale organization in those times? Well, back in the time, with the growing population and city’s rapid geographical extension, there were very limited options of restaurants serving food of different cuisines. Employees from all over Indian implied the existence of different taste buds in place. With no choice left, workers had to rely on their home-cooked meals for lunch and snacks. There were no canteens, food courts, or corporate cafeterias that we see today. So, the dabbawalas became a very convenient mode of delivering meals to office-goers. And due to their efficient management of logistics, it became very well-liked amongst the population and strived for more than a century providing its service to the workers of Mumbai.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed has put the world at a deadly juncture. The Dabbawalas and their tiffin services have also gulped in a huge hit due to the damage caused by the pandemic. Once feeding many, they were on the verge of extinction. With local trains not operating and offices being closed, their lifelong service had come to a halt. But with the lockdown being lifted from June, they have started their operations on a small scale within the city.
The lunchbox carriers of Mumbai have already stamped their name in the Guinness Book of World Records and are always a topic of discussion in various fields of business and management. From a management perspective, their control over the logistics and supply chain is impeccable. The on-time delivery without any error left marks in the works of many research scholars from prestigious institutions such as Harvard Business School and IIM Lucknow. It is believed that this business is growing at a rate of 6-10% every year which is quite a number for a business of this scale.
Tiffin services have always played a crucial role in a small city as well as a metropolitan. Rather than relying on the monotonous meals of the office canteens or unhygienic kitchens of the eateries residing near offices, having a proper tiffin service for lunch is always a safer choice. One gets not only the satisfaction of eating homemade food or the dish from their favourite restaurant but also their safety is taken into consideration looking at the current scenario due to the pandemic. Companies must ensure that their employees get an adequate amount of food safety while working.
The contribution of dabbawalas will be remembered forever. It is quite remarkable how the hands that feed lakhs of citizens daily provide such world-class delivery standards with almost zero error and zero input of technology. It will always serve as an inspiration for the leading logistics and supply chain companies throughout the world.