This intricate and highly efficient dabbawala service is the envy of many a logistics company. It has been studied by Harvard Business School, among others, to see how a system made up primarily of illiterate people without any form of technology or information system, can deliver and return 200,000 dabbas a day, on time and with a margin of error of around 1 in 6 million meals. Even during the monsoon, when many other services stop working, the dabba deliveries continue.
One of the reasons why Indians have continued to use the dabbawalas over time despite the rise in fast food chains is that they detest this type of food, much preferring home-made food that they know has been carefully prepared by family. This also ensures that each caste can comply with their specific dietary requirements. And to boot, the monthly cost for the service is less than 500₹ (£6), which is the cost of a single meal in a good restaurant in the city. Dabbawalas exist in other towns in Indian, but they are a true institution in Mumbai because the city is so over congested and the most densely populated city in the country. In other towns in India, family can take their home-made meals into the office for the employees at lunchtime, on foot, motorbike or in a rickshaw.
However, the success of the dabbawalas rests heavily on the patriarchal society in India, where women cook for their husbands and sons. There aren’t many cases of men cooking meals for their wives who work in the city centre. But one thing is for sure, there is nothing better than a meal prepared at home with tender loving care and delivered to your workplace!