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Mumbai Dabbawalas In Jaipur – Read About Their World-Class Work Management System

  • IWB Post
  •  September 23, 2015


To launch its WE – Women Empowerment in Education, Transport & Security, FLO Jaipur Chapter invited Dr. Pawan G. Agarwal, President, Mumbai Dabbawala Education Centre.

The Dabbawalas have been in the profession of transporting lunch boxes for more than 120 years now. They are one of the most reliable ways to send tiffin-boxes from home to office and back. Recognized by Forbes, Prince Charles and having received Six-sigma rating for efficiency, Dabbawalas are invited all over the world to share insight and secrets of their brilliant work management system and unique delivery system.

Under the guidance of Alka Batra, WE is one of the many initiatives towards empowering women. While inviting Dr. Pawan, Alka said, “FLO Management has announced to train 200 women of the Pink City who will later be placed as drivers, security guards, computer operators, etc. FLO Jaipur wants to make these women financially independent. Working women add to country’s economy, and we hope, our initiative will contribute towards the cause. Today, Pawan ji will tell us how we can become better employers & mentors to polish these girls, along with guiding these girls how to become efficient employees.”fff

For Dr. Pawan, Customer satisfaction is the key to success of any business. He said, “I have been teaching for past 28 years. Our organization focuses on providing free education to every child of Dabbawala. When a company learns to give back to the employees a little more than their salaries, greatest bonds are created between them. Allow me to expand this thought with the help of Dabbawalas’ working management system.” In his interactive speech, he talked about – sincere efforts, 100% consumer satisfaction, making absolutely no errors in work, and much more. Read the excerpts below:

Only referred people are made employees

Whoever wants to get a job in the Dabbawala-community must have a reference within the community. The person who refers guarantees his good character and acts as his mentor for few months, teaching him the knacks of his job. In case, this new person commits mistake, he is given few chances to correct it before being terminated forever. Plus, the referee doesn’t get to refer anyone in the future.13

Employee trust

Wives don’t just pack the food inside dabbas, sometimes mobile and wallet are also being packed along that their husbands might have forgotten to carry while leaving for office hurriedly. This, by the way, is our VAS (Value Added Services). *laughs*

The Dabbawalas are not allowed to open any tiffin-box. Their job is to pick it up and drop it at the right place. There is this trust management has in each employee. The same gets reflected in the customers.

Employee ethics

Dabbawalas are not allowed to consume alcohol & tobacco, and smoke during their working hours. If they do, a fine of Rs. 1,000 must be made. We have this strict policy because Dabbawalas come across so many women during the working hours while picking/dropping lunch-boxes. This is solely for the women-safety purpose.

Work is worship

We have a rule – to never say ‘This is not my job’. Every tiffin-box has a code written on it to identify which house it has been picked up from and where it has to be delivered. Sometimes, the coding fades due to regular wash. Our Dabbawalas don’t complain and ask the wives to redo it. Instead, they themselves use their fingers to color it all over again. This may happen every day, however, it never irritates them!ff

Beauty of one’s job

You may ask, what beauty does this job have except for delivering food on time? There may be times, when there is thrift between the husband and wife before he leaves for office. In such a case, the wife sometimes put a love-letter inside her husband’s dabba. Seeing it, the angry-young-husband turns to hungry-young-husband; and enjoys his meal prepared with love. Later in the evening, it is possible that he will appear with 2 movie tickets! No, this is not some Bollywood story that I am making. This has happened many times, as told to us by the customers themselves.

CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility

We have introduced a plan wherein the customers are given stickers that say ‘Share My Dabba’. If the food is not eaten by the person, he puts this sticker on the top of his dabba. Later, our Dabbawalas feed this remaining food to the needy kids of Mumbai slum. You should see the scenario when these little hungry ones wait for our Dabbawalas at the nearby railway stations. For us, this is the next level of work satisfaction. I strongly assert that every business must follow its social responsibility wholeheartedly.12

In the end, Dr. Pawan said few more things that touched the hearts of everyone listening to him:

“Even though Dabbawalas work non-stop for 9 hours, with a lunch break of just 20-minutes, we have seen 100% employee retention in past 125 years. We have set no retirement age, and have got men in their 70s working as your Dabbawala. Sometimes they don’t get Diwali bonus, but they never complain. Why? I think it is because of the work-satisfaction they experience every single day. Feeding someone is the highest form of good deed a human can perform, and they are doing exactly the same – feeding more than 200,000 people every day in Mumabi city, covering 60 to 70 km distances. I guarantee, every Dabbawala you meet will inspire you.”

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