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Mumbai Travel Guide

Dabawallahs



Dabbawallah means one who carries the box, etimologilly dabbawallah is compound by two words in Marathi and Indi, DABBA means a box, in generally the dabbas in India are cylindrical metal container; and WALA means man who carried something. Then Dabbawallah is a person whose job is carry and delivery fresh food, many times foods made in his home, or in other cases meals made by women in their homes. People spelled of different way the word, like dabballawah, dabbawalla, dabbawala, or dabbawalah, and other times they are called tiffin-wallas. Tiffin is an English word for a light lunch.

The job of these man consist in collect freshly made food in home of the customers in lunch boxes, to carry and give them in their work's offices, in normal case, food is made in the worker’s home, other times lunch made by a women who cook meals according the client’s orders. After of the lunch, they return the empty dabbas to where they came from. Now the service includes the delivery service and the meal cooked.

Dabbawallahs begin to work at 7 or 8 on the morning, collecting dabbas of the customers, and cover long distances from the client's homes to their jobs, and end at about 6 on the evening returned to their household in the suburban area of the big city of Mumbai. They never stop, the service continuing during all year, even on the days of extreme weather, like a monsoons in Mumbai.

It is an amazing job; because they carry the set of dabbas, and must take suburban train that generally is full, later walk around the populous city, they cross Full Street of people and traffic; identifying each dabbas, each suburban, each floor and each office of the customers. Nevertheless, the most of the dabbawallahs are illiterate, but they make only one mistake for every eight million lunches, is great record, that many multinational companies would want, this study was made by Forbes Global magazine, and they have Six Sigma of performance in conducted and quality: they are 99.999999 efficient. Customers pay about 175 rupees per month approximately $6.25 and each dabbawallah make about 3000 rupees like $107 after to pay rail cost, and other services of the transport.

They have a strict code of discipline during the work, like No Alcohol Drinking during business hours, Wear White Cap during business hours, and carry always his Identity Cards. And his latest marketing strategy is putting a message in the dabba.

The history of the dabbawallas started in 1880 during British Raj, Mumbai workers dislikeed a fast food in the jobs, and they didn’t bring their lunch from home and returned hungry at their homes, or when they left home from work, the lunch wouldn’t be ready yet. Mahadeo Havaji Bacche recognized the need and started the service with about 100 Dabbawallahs, since then, the business of Dabbawallahs increased enormously.

The service was source of many documentaries; in 1998, Jascha and Chris Relleke made a documentary called “Dabbawallahs, Mumbai’s unique lunch service”; in July 2001, Christian Science Monitor made an article called “Fastest Food: It's Big Mac vs. Bombay's dabbawallahs”; in 2002, Jonathan Harley and Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) made a reporting to Dabbawallahs, and in 2003, BBC aired a program about the Dabbawallahs; in 2003, Paul S. Goodman and Denise Rousseau, of Carnegie Mellon University, made their first full-length documentary called 'The Dabbawallas'.


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