This is a user generated content for MyStory, a YourStory initiative to enable its community to contribute and have their voices heard. The views and writings here reflect that of the author and not of YourStory.

Mumbai Dabbawalas – “Revolutionizing the food delivery”

This article is written to study the efficacy of Dabbawalas and to get insights about their operations .

Mumbai Dabbawalas – “Revolutionizing the food delivery”

Tuesday May 17, 2016,

6 min Read

What is a Dabba and who is a Dabbawala (Dabba +Wala)??

A “Dabba” is simply a Tiffin box carrying home cooked food which is to be delivered from the home to a person in an office or a school.

A Dabbawala is a person who picks up the food from the home and ensures that it is delivered to the right person, in the right office and on the promised time.


Some facts about Dabbawalas’

1. They are only 5000 in number but do an astounding transaction of around 3 Lakh Tiffins per day.

2. Dabbawalas have high rate of accuracy and their error rates are shockingly 1 in 8 million only.

3. Most of them are illiterate and they don’t use any technology, still they are “6 sigma” compliant for their impressive accuracy.

4. Dabbawalas work as a team, everyone is an equal shareholder and earnings are equally divided among all.

5. Big Daddy- “Microsoft” partnered with Dabbawalas to distribute pamphlets and create awareness about genuine windows.

6. Flipkart also tied up with Dabbawalas for last mile delivery to its customers

7. Dabbawalas launched the ‘Roti Bank’ initiative – a plan to prevent wastage of food at social gatherings.

How they work??

A Dabbawala uses cycle and train to deliver his Dabbas, hence the process of delivering Dabbas is sustainable and environment friendly :P.

At 9 am, Dabbawalas are out on the busy streets of Mumbai on their bicycle. People watch them as they move swiftly and with authority on the roads. But nothing can stop them from collecting the Tiffins on time from the designated houses. There is a famous saying in Mumbai that “Time and Dabbawala “will not wait for you ;). They are strict and punctual and they won’t wait for more than 10 seconds at your gate.

Once they collect all the Tiffins they move to the nearest railway station where Dabbawalas from different areas gather. They quickly sort the Tiffins as per their destination and in accordance with Dabbawala coding system. There is no fixed number of Dabbas that a Dabbawala is required to carry. It is up to their discretion on how many Dabbas they can deliver. They believe “individually they are nothing but together they are a team and can achieve everything”. 


Now Dabbawalas travel to different areas in jam packed Mumbai Local trains (God knows how they enter it with those big wooden boxes). Once they reach their destination station, they sort Dabbas again and distribute them among each other (again team work plays a vital role here). Nobody has time to think or crib about anything, all that is in their mind is to deliver Dabbas on time. They again use cycles to commute to various offices and deliver the Dabbas.

By 1 pm when mostly all the Dabbas are delivered, all relieved Dabbawalas gather at one place, pray together and have their lunch.

But till now the job is only half done. Dabbawalas now have to take the empty Tiffins from the offices and go through the same process again, till the Tiffins reach their respective homes before 6pm.


1. Tie up with MNC’s to provide logistics support

Just like Flipkart, Dabbawalas can tie up with MNC’s to provide them with logistics support. Dabbawalas are well versed with the geography of the city and their services have met customers’ expectations over the years. So it would make sense for MNC’s to tie up with Dabbawalas if they really want to excel in their logistics.

Apart from delivering food, they can also partner with companies to deliver organic milk, exotic vegetables, newspapers etc.

2. Partner with companies to promote their brands

Dabbawalas usually interact with more than 3lakh housewives daily. Apart from this they also cover a distance of at least 40kms a day across the city. Hence it provides a great opportunity for companies to brand their products partnering with Dabbawalas.

Also Dabbawalas have a very good reputation and people regard them for their hard work and efficiency. Hence various brands could capitalize on these qualities to create their own brand image in the market.

Apart from the recommendations mentioned above, Dabbawalas can also implement “two unique services” which are mentioned below—

1. Celebrate Adla Badli (Exchange) day in each month

On this day, Dabbawalas can exchange the Tiffins among people and hence create a sense of excitement and surprise for its customer’s .For example, say Mr. X gets Tiffin from Mrs. X daily but on this one particular day Mr. X will get Tiffin from Mrs. Y and the Tiffin prepared by Mrs. X will go to Mr. A may be. This is a way to break the monotony and add an element of surprise to the Tiffin services. (PS- Inspired by Bollywood Movie- “The Lunch Box”)

2. Surprise your wife Campaign

It is a known fact in India that, “Wives are the ones who control their husbands”. So Dabbawalas can actually take advantage of this fact to implement a new concept into their business which is “Surprise your wife”. Under this campaign, on a particular day (after every quarter) all husbands will have to send a surprise gift for their wives (which would be delivered by Dabbawalas) to thank them for their hard work and efforts they put in at home. With this concept implemented, Dabbawalas are likely to attract more housewives (as many of them feel ignored by their husbands) and hence more Tiffin boxes which will enable them to grow more.

Why should you Respect them? / Things to learn from them

Dabbawalas have no fixed hours, no public holidays, no AC facilities (even when it’s burning 50 degrees in Mumbai) ,no promotions or hike(they earn only 10K per month) yet they never crib about anything and are the most efficient entrepreneurs. You know why, because these people love their job. They have accepted who they are and why are they working. They know they can’t afford to fall ill or go on a strike because if it happens then more than 3lakh people will be affected and it might hamper their relationship at home (as we know how Indian men behave when they don’t get food).

These people are an epitome of dedication and hard work. They are illiterate yet they are the most efficient business across the globe. We should respect them for their selfless nature, dedication, commitment, team work and honesty towards their work.