Sustainable Supply Chains: An
‘Updated’ Case Study of
Dabbawallahs of Mumbai
Dabbawallah = a box person, the
lunch deliver...
"I immediately asked myself: how an
organization with so few resources,
technology and management know-how
could achieve s...
Framework for Analysis
We will examine performance along four categories of
sustainability (based on MindClick’s HSP Index...
Commercial Hospitality
Brief History of a Food Supply Chain
•

Originated in the late colonial times
– Indian employees working for the British d...
Built-in Sustainability
•

Organic development of business
– NOT in response to regulatory pressure nor to ‘capitalize upo...
Sustainability is a ‘Process in the
Making’
•

Introduction of dabbas (food boxes) made of more eco-friendly materials
– B...
Some Recent Adaptations
•

Engage in complementary and supplementary pro-community activities
– Circulate community suppor...
Sustainable Competitive Advantage:
What the Dabbawalas Think
• Dabbawalas epitomize the ‘triumph of human
will’ that is fu...
In the light of Theory
• First mover advantage associated with building a huge network
– Network economics: benefit for ea...
Days Ahead:---?
•

Opening up of in-house canteens in factories, business offices, and schools
–

•

Competition for limit...
Sources
•
•
•
•

First hand experiences
Personal interviews
Media reports
www.mydabbawala.com

“Dhabbawalas may be poor pe...
Sustainable Supply Chains: An ‘Updated’ Case Study of Dabbawallahs of Mumbai
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Sustainable Supply Chains: An ‘Updated’ Case Study of Dabbawallahs of Mumbai

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Presentation by Dr. Babu P George @ SMA 2013

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Sustainable Supply Chains: An ‘Updated’ Case Study of Dabbawallahs of Mumbai

  1. 1. Sustainable Supply Chains: An ‘Updated’ Case Study of Dabbawallahs of Mumbai Dabbawallah = a box person, the lunch delivery man Babu P George, PhD © No right reserved!
  2. 2. "I immediately asked myself: how an organization with so few resources, technology and management know-how could achieve such high-delivery performance? When I came back to Boston, I researched the organization and found more questions than answers.“ - Stefan Thomke, Professor, Harvard Business School “200K food containers moving from homes to offices and schools everyday, within the span of 4 hours, in one of the most crowded cities in the world, using the technology of trust” - Sajal Adhav, a dhabbawallah. "We don’t understand Six Sigma. We are a bunch of illiterates. But we do know our prime responsibility – customer satisfaction. And to achieve that, we can put in hard work like no one else" - Raghunath Medge President, Nutan Tiffin Box Suppliers Association
  3. 3. Framework for Analysis We will examine performance along four categories of sustainability (based on MindClick’s HSP Index): • How the dabbawala service is better for the customer • How the dabbawala service is better for the community • How the dabbawala service is better for the environment • How the dabbawala service is better for the service provider
  4. 4. Commercial Hospitality
  5. 5. Brief History of a Food Supply Chain • Originated in the late colonial times – Indian employees working for the British did not like the food being served in the workplace • Organized as a cooperative in late 19th century – Distributed, flat, network organizational structure • • Currently, around 5000 members/employees In the three layered structure, ALL employees are paid equally – • • • Migrants coming mostly from the villages surrounding Mumbai Community referral based staff recruitment Use of time-tested hub-n-spoke concept • • • Permits individualized customer care, collaborative planning and implementation Started with the objective of giving a livelihood for migrant workers • • • Discipleship NOT followership Each spoke is managed autonomously by a team of 20-25 dabbawallahs, each serving around 30 customers per day, under the leadership of a ‘mukadam’ (supervisor). Over the time, this ‘hospitality network’ evolved into a flawless system with six sigma performance rating. The unique situation of circular distribution (“zero order closed loop supply chain”?): Supplier=Supplied
  6. 6. Built-in Sustainability • Organic development of business – NOT in response to regulatory pressure nor to ‘capitalize upon’ the green wave of consumer demand – NOT introduced as a means for competitive advantage – No imported theories or practices – • Even the dabba coding system is self-evolved/evolving Coexistence with community aspirations – Indian culture gives a lot of importance to ‘homemade food’ – Co-evolution with society; nevertheless, act as a force against undesirable developments (such as fast food culture). – Resonates with the voices of nature and society • No pen, paper, or electronic memory documentation – All depends upon a few characters of ‘code’ marked on dabbas • Resilience-homeostasis keep tested: community does not disown the network even when they were allured by commercially minded similar service providers. – Some employers are known to give their staff incentives if they use dabbawala services rather than go out to have lunch in the restaurants. • May be, love delivered from home make them efficient and effective at work?
  7. 7. Sustainability is a ‘Process in the Making’ • Introduction of dabbas (food boxes) made of more eco-friendly materials – Boxes made of wood rather than steel/aluminum, better sealing to avoid contamination in the transportation phase, no to plastic • In exceptional cases, deliver restaurant-cooked food to work places and even to homes – While resisting the temptation to exploit an increasing opportunity to do the same • • • • • • Rather encourages home-cooked food from trusted neighborhood homes (livelihood for more families!) Avoid using motorized / private transportation for shipping Avoid using GPS routing, barcodes, or RFIDs (the illiterate workforce could not have managed them + the initial investment requirements) Delivery of organic raw materials for food preparation to homes, often directly from the farmers (inside the otherwise empty dabbas) in the evenings – ‘sustainable’ reverse logistics with integration to ‘sustainable’ second order supply chains. Collect leftovers in the dabbas to deliver to farmers who use them as manure Collect leftovers from hotels and event locations and deliver to the orphanages and old age homes
  8. 8. Some Recent Adaptations • Engage in complementary and supplementary pro-community activities – Circulate community support messages (E.g.: About medical camps, volunteering and employment opportunities, etc) – Organize community activism (E.g.: Mobilization of people against the corrupt; against unsafe garbage dumping; tree planting; etc). – Household waste disposal support; also, support with cloth washing (dhobi). – Making and mending relationships: (E.g.: Match-making). – early warning to law enforcement about troubles in an area. • • Induction of women / LGBT / minority groups into the member network Part-time continuing educational opportunities for society members – Training in computer operations, food service, personal grooming, English language, etc. • • • Healthcare and retirement planning for the members Help start, nurture, and certify dabbawalla networks in other cities Knowledge exchange with colleges and b-schools on dabbawallah network building in particular and social entrepreneurship in general These add-on activities make an 11am-2pm job to a full day job for the network members
  9. 9. Sustainable Competitive Advantage: What the Dabbawalas Think • Dabbawalas epitomize the ‘triumph of human will’ that is fuelled by the power of certain living philosophies (summary of a focus group interview): • Work is worship – delivering food is a way to serve God – I am delivering love, packaged in food – Me skipping lunch will go in vain if a single one of my customers goes without lunch • See the whole through the part – If I fail, all other dabbawalas will fail – I will pass only if all other dabbawalas pass the test everyday – Process is the outcome • Trust broken once is broken for ever • Simplicity is not the best solution, but it always work
  10. 10. In the light of Theory • First mover advantage associated with building a huge network – Network economics: benefit for each user increases with the size of the network – There is no room for a parallel network • The algorithm of success lies latently in the web of relationships – Core competence cannot easily be decoded, transferred, or replicated • Culture of competitiveness: Superior match between internal resources and external opportunities, obtained through shared understanding between ‘the servant and the served’ – The dabbawalas have no strategy but an implicit sense of shared purpose that directs their collective action
  11. 11. Days Ahead:---? • Opening up of in-house canteens in factories, business offices, and schools – • Competition for limited space on trains – • Nuclear families, trendiness to eat out, frugality no longer a virtue, spouse accepting full time employment Businesses moving to satellite towns around Mumbai which are not well connected by suburban trains – • Mumbai is a ‘victim of its own success’ Changing worldviews and life-styles of the young generation – • Also the indianization of menus of multinational fast-food chains Also, temporary offices, telecommuting True, three generations of dabbawalas made this business model work. But, – Will next generation be interested to accept this as a career option? • • • • Need for additional revenue streams to survive – – – – – – • Project with tech-savvy young employees on an ‘express delivery system’ using electronic distribution technologies E-commerce in food delivery (web-based booking, SMS based ordering) Experimentation with ‘table services’ by trade-school trained dabbawalas Carry commercials and samples inside dabbas Mail delivery Paint dabbas with advertisements Product endorsements Dabbawala owned restaurants with food take-out outlet Will reputation be negatively affected; will the key strength be diluted??? Business model streamlining is a felt need – – – Lot of unsought (sometimes unwanted) help comes from academic researchers and gurus. Unfortunately, not much of their jargon makes sense for the illiterate tribe of street-smart dabbawalas Still, with the appointment of a few professionally trained administrators, dabbawalas are trying to keep pace with the times.
  12. 12. Sources • • • • First hand experiences Personal interviews Media reports www.mydabbawala.com “Dhabbawalas may be poor people, but each of them live by a rich set of values; we wouldn’t have let them into our homes if it weren’t.” – A Mumbaiite housewife

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