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For the typical office goer in the bustling city of Mumbai, (population: about 13 million) there are two life lines. One is the railway system which gets them to their office and back. The other is the dabbawalla. The guy who brings you your lunch- even if your house is many miles away. The figures speak for themselves. 5,000 dabbawallas deliver around 200,000 tiffin ( lunch) boxes to hungry office goers every day- come rain or sunshine. These have to be returned to their homes immediately which means a total of 400,000 transactions every single day – with scarcely a mistake.

Interestingly, the majority of dabbawallas have very limited eduacation,. They can at best read signs and symbols which has become the hallmark of their remarkably efficient delivery system. A logistics super success story which has been debated in India’s as also in Ivy League business schools.

The dabawallaws are not employees but co-owners of that enterprise. For them timeliness is paramount. Their dedication to their work needs to be seen to be believed as they manoeuvre through the narrow streets of Mumbai to pick up the dabbas which are then taken by trains, more often than not, to distant offices.

Recently, the Dubai chapter of the Institute of Charterered Accountants of India invited Manish Tripathi, honorary director of the dabbawallas to speak to them. The Economic Times has a story on what he had to say .

The honesty and unquestionable commitment of the dabbawalla have become legendary. Theirs is no new business. They have been plying their trade for over 115 years. See their official website at leisure for a fund of detail on how this truly amazing system works.

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This is Post No: 203 of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success