Divine Dabbawallas

A dabbawalla doing a balancing act. Steady bro!

Hat tip to Seth Godin for this fascinating food phenomenon in India called the Dabbawalla. These guys deliver food in tiffins (metal containers like the one below which we also use in Singapore) to thousands of offices every day.

According to BBC News, there are about 5,000 of them delivering 200,000 tiffins a day, often balancing them precariously on their heads while using public transport like trains. Quoting from Seth,

"These men deliver thousands of lunches every single day in Mumbai... from the person's home to their office, hot and fresh. The reported error rate is one in six million.

How is this possible? How do you create and run a service with thousand of employees, no technology and a poorly-educated workforce and have better than six sigma quality?

Simple: the dabbawallas know their customers.

If they rotated the people around, it would never work. There's trust, and along with the trust is responsibility. By creating a flat organization and building relationships, the system even survives monsoon season."

This example certainly makes one wonder if man's relentless push towards technology can truly make a big difference in productivity. Often, its the simple things in life which work best.

These guys put our IT inventions to shame!

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