Be it a rainy affair or a peak humid day, there is no ‘stop’ for the dabbawalas of Mumbai, who have been delivering home-cooked food to office-goers since ages now. The daily clockwork precision, travelling by cycle or the train to ensure that your food reaches your office on time is what this machinery is all about. These dabbawalas deliver over 100,000 lunchboxes across the city and are said to have a six sigma rating of 99.9999; that is, less than one mistake in every six million deliveries! Are the other food delivery aggregators listening?
Surprisingly, there isn’t any advanced technology involved in this trade. Each dabba is picked up at the client’s home, delivered to their office and then returned- a trip during which it will typically pass through the hands of at least 7-8 dabbawallas across an intricate zoning system. This 125-year-old supply chain was also lauded by Britain’s Prince Charles on his visit to India and this system has become a trademark of Mumbai.
On a similar note, these local heroes of Mumbai have been etched in a comic book for the second time in six years, the first book being Tina & Tiffin, which was released back in 2013!
The comic book is humbly titled 'Dabbawala' and this is an initiative taken by the popular restaurant chain, SodaBottleOpenerWala. The story portrays the Dabbawalas as superheroish beings of Mumbai and the tale is narrated by a father to his son. Abhijeet Kini is the artist behind the story and illustrations and the book was launched at an event, where numerous dabbawalas were invited to. A generous spread of vegetarian delicacies were served to these superheroes and instead of the usual plates and bowls, the feast was served in dabbas to keep up the spirits!
Since most of the dabbawalas aren’t educated, this fascinating delivery system depends on symbols, signs, and colours for organisations and delivery of lunch boxes. The food is delivered based on the assigned code, colour, or symbol. Abbreviations are used for the pickup point of the lunchboxes, color coding is used for starting stations, numbers are assigned for destination stations.
Other markings are used for the dabbawala who is supposed to handle and deliver the lunchbox to its final destination. This neat system requires sweat, toil, coordinations and sincerity and till date, these folks haven’t given us any reason to complain! The whole model is structured based on the concept of making ghar ka khaana accessible to all.