A dabbawala is a person whose job is to collect lunch boxes from homes, which are packed in an aluminum container, known locally as dabba, which they deliver to customers in their respective offices.
A dabbawala , also spelled as dabbawalla or dabbawallah is a person in the Indian city of Mumbai who is employed in a unique service industry whose primary business is collecting the freshly cooked food in lunch boxes from the residences of the office workers (mostly in the suburbs), delivering it to their respective workplaces and returning back the empty boxes by using various modes of transport. “Tiffin” is an old-fashioned English word for a light lunch, and sometimes for the box it is carried in. For this reason, the dabbawalas are sometimes called Tiffin Wallahs. [Wikipedia]
How did it come into existence ?
How it came into existence was a matter of necessity for the British during the who, for want of good hygienic food scarcely available on the streets of Mumbai, had to depend on meals prepared at home. They would hire locals to carry the lunch boxes from home to their workplace. Since then, these lunch box carriers have become popularly known as dabbawalas.
Mumbai is densely populated, and traffic fairly bursts out at its seams. It is the financial hub of India and has a large number of corporate offices, concentrated in south Mumbai. The working class, residing in far-off suburbs and who relish homemade dishes, patronize the dabbawalas.
How do they function ?
A collecting dabbawala, usually on bicycle, collects dabbas from homes or from the dabba makers. The dabbas have some sort of distinguishing mark on them, such as a color or symbol. The dabbawala then takes them to a designated sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort (and sometimes bundle) the lunch boxes into groups. The grouped boxes are put in the coaches of trains, with markings to identify the destination of the box (usually there is a designated car for the boxes). The markings include the rail station to unload the boxes and the building address where the box has to be delivered.
At each station, boxes are handed over to a local dabbawala, who delivers them. The empty boxes, after lunch, are again collected and sent back to the respective houses.
Economic Analysis :
Each dabbawala, regardless of role, gets paid about two to four thousand rupees per month (around £25–50 or US$40–80).
More than 175,000 or 200,000 lunch boxes get moved every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. According to a recent survey, there is only one mistake in every 6,000,000 deliveries, statistically equivalent to a Six Sigma (99.9999) rating.
Growth rate :
New York Times has reported that this industry grows at a rate of 5 to 10% per year.
International connection of Dabbawalas :
The dabbawalas achieved worldwide fame when Prince Charles, during one of his visits to Mumbai, paid a special visit to them and evidenced keen interest in how they worked. He was so impressed with them that later, during his wedding, he extended an invitation to these dabbawalas. In a way, the dabbawala does yeoman service in maintaining healthy food habits for workers in Mumbai by keeping them away from fast food joints. Richard Branson spend a day with them delivering the “dabbas”.