Every workday in Mumbai, India, an amazing phenomenon of teamwork occurs. Over 200,000 hot homemade meals are transported from the suburbs to the office workers in downtown Mumbai by 5000 Dabbawalas. The translation of “Dabbawala” is “one who carries a box”. This dynamic network of delivering hot, homemade lunches includes multiple checkpoints and elaborate color and number-coded dabbas (lunch boxes). It begins every morning at 8 AM in the suburbs. Then the entire process reverses itself around 2 PM and all the dabbas are returned to their origin.
Some Dabbawalas travel up to 80 miles a day with loads up to 100 pounds. The process is so efficient that it was certified Six Sigma in 1998 with a record of only one out of 16 million meals failing to be delivered. That is only one meal in two months! A lunchbox can change hands as many as four times during the journey as it travels by bicycle, train and pull cart.
The Dabbawala delivery system began over 125 years ago in 1890 when Indian entrepreneur, Mahadeo Havaji Bacche, invented the meal distribution service to meet the culinary needs of the British and Indian working population. Today 8 out of 10 white collar workers live too far to go home for lunch, and restaurants cost 5-15 times more than the cost of a delivered hot lunch. The monthly cost for a dabba is approximately US $5.
This teamwork is also amazing because there is no IT infrastructure and illiteracy levels are approximately 85%. The most important thing for the Dabbawala is to be one time. Their integrity and discipline are also world-renowned.
*(Source: from the book As One, Individual Action Collective Power, by Mehrdad Baghai & James Quigley)