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Foodline of Mumbai: The Dabbawalas
"If Mumbai's local trains are the life line of the city then the Dabbawalas are the food line of Mumbai." This is the saga of illiterate Dabbawalas of Mumbai who collect freshly prepared food from homes in the morning and deliver it to about 200,000 workers in their respective offices before lunch time and then return those empty 200,000 boxes back to the customer's house.

Over 400,000 transactions per day is carried by 5000 illiterate workers by using numbers, codes and abbreviations associated with each dabba for an extremely nominal fee of about Rs. 450 p.m. without any technological support. And what makes them amazingly superb is their accuracy rate which is 99.99999% or in other way their chances of committing an error is 1 in 16 million deliveries.

Crazy, but it’s hard to argue with the results.

This 123-year old business has gained praise from all over the world. In 1998, Forbes Magazine considered it as an organization qualified for Six Sigma i.e. 99.99999 accuracy. The Harvard Business School too has introduced a case study on them as a part of its MBA curriculum. Even Prince Charles had urged to meet these Dabbawalas during his visit to India in 2003 and made it a point to specially invite them to his second Camila Parker.

Being sometimes referred to as “The Eighth Wonder of The world” these Dabbawala’s are no where behind any corporate in fulfilling their social responsibility. In this direction “Share My Dabba” is an initiative started by them in a joint effort with Happy Life Welfare Society to provide left over food in dabbas to hungry street children, using just a tiny Share sticker and the extensive dabbawala network.

Even the Mumbai cops took the help of these dabbawalas to tackle terrorism in the city. A day after the Bodh Gaya bomb blasts, the cops conducted meetings with over 200 home delivery Dabbawalas and requested them to monitor suspicious people and movements as they visit dozens of places to deliver lunch boxes on a daily basis.

Recently Dr. Pawan Aggrawal, President of Mumbai Dabbawala Education Centre was called by Guru Jambeshwar University, Hisar to address the MBA students. He told the students that “Customer is God”, “Work is Worship” and “Error is Horror” are three main mantras on which these Dabbawalas had laid their foundation of success.

They haven't gone on strike son far, no police case and no court case till date is against them, he added. The university's hall echoed with a huge round of applause when he was later honored with a shawl as a token of love by Dr. S.C. Kundu, Director of Guru Jambeshwar University, Hisar.

No wonder that these Dabbawalas have inspired millions of business executives from around the globe. The combination of a culture of commitment combined with their incredibly accurate execution itself makes a compelling story.

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