Murali introduced the first speakers of the day, Subodh Sangle. Subodh is supposed to be the spokesperson of Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. This person came and gave a presentation on the dabbawala and how they achieved six Sigma in their delivery. He also had his side kick, a dabbawala who came along with him for I do not know what but to say hi and take his 2 minutes of fame on the large stage. Though I knew about the subject of Dabbawalas, still there were a couple of new snippets that I got to know.
The dabbawalas, around 5000 in number now, come from a specific community or caste in Maharashtra – The Malva caste. These folks are not highly educated, but operate a tiffin delivery system, picking up tiffin boxes from homes or their customers, delivering them at their offices, and bringing back the tiffin boxes to home for a monthly charge of Rs 800.
They have got various accolades for their operation. Prince Charles visited them and so have various other dignitaries.
It seems, if there is a delay in providing the tiffinbox to the dabbawala, they will tolerate it for 2 times. If there is a delay third time, they will stop the service. Though this is against the principle of customer service, on a large scale it helps as some other customer would not be penalized because of delay by one other customer.
It was interesting to note that cash and letters were also carried in the tiffin boxes. The way they put it is, it is not food, but the trust that was carried in them!
Their aim is to have punctuality and accuracy at any cost.
In recent months, they have started a campaign of ‘Share My Dabba’ also. This is a small sticker which if someone puts in the dabba, the leftover food is shared with poor and hungry children. I had seen this youtube video earlier, but it is worth a watch again!
However, talking about Subodh Sangle, he seemed to be a well educated English speaking person. But I did a little bit of research and it was clear that Subodh may not be the representative of all the Dabbawalas. There seems to be some issues between him and the Dabbawalas who accuse him of not representing them correctly and not attending any of their association meetings for the last 5 years. Here is a news article from a trusted source.
Success has many fathers! When people realized the successful operations of Dabbawalas, many claimed association with them. There will be people who will also try to take advantage of it. But that does not take the sheen away from the Dabbawalas who have been doing a great service.