Chief Executive Officer of Mumbai Dabbawalas' Association Pawan G. Agrawal speaking at a session organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry and Young Indians in Coimbatore on Friday.
“To a Mumbai dabbawala, the customer is not just the king but God,” said Pawan G. Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer of the Mumbai Dabbawalas' Association, here on Friday.
For more than an hour on Friday evening, industrialists, professionals and students in the packed hall of The Residency here were treated to an inspiring, thought-provoking and educative session on ethics in and commitment to work.
Mr. Agarwal made a presentation on “The Mumbai Dabbawalas” at a meeting organised by the Coimbatore Chapter of the Young Indians and the Confederation of Indian Industry.
Mr. Agarwal dwelt on the 120-year-old service by the dabbawalas in Mumbai, who number about 5,000 now, their daily work routine, uninterrupted service in delivering two lakh tiffin boxes every day and the recognition that the service continues to receive.
The presentation concluded with the audience, numbering more than 200, appreciating the service of the dabbawalas with a standing ovation.
The service of the dabbawalas started in 1890 and a Charitable Trust was established in 1956. The average literacy level of a dabbawala is Class VIII and the average monthly income about Rs. 10,000.
A dabbawala works for eight to nine hours a day, travels nearly 70 km with tiffin boxes totally weighing about 60 kg. And, they have not gone on strike for a single day.
Their main modes of transport are the local trains and bicycles. They are not aided by technology to remember the address and phone numbers of their customers. And, amazingly, their error rate is one in 16 million transactions. They collect the tiffin boxes from the customers' residence, deliver it at the work place, and return the empty tiffin boxes at the customers' house.
A strong organisation structure, precise coding system for the tiffin boxes (which started with coloured threads and now consists of a series of alphabet and numbers), and adherence to a code of conduct are some of the highlights of this organised service.
The dabbawalas are punctual, disciplined, and committed to work. They value customer satisfaction, follow work ethics, and have a positive attitude. They do not smoke or consume alcohol during work hours and do not take leave without prior notice, he said.
The Mumbai Dabbawalas have received Six Sigma recognition and ISO 9001:2000 certification. Prince Charles and Richard Branson (Chairman of Virgin Atlantic) have visited them. And, their success has been presented at several international forums