Mumbai Dabbawala’s : The Illiterate MBA’s

The city that never sleeps, wakes up to see another bright sunshine. The sea, with its splashing waves, embraces the sand again, marking the beginning of daily activities. Yes. Hae amcha Mumbai ahe.

dabbawala admirable india

We, Mumbaikars are known for two things, one of them is our super paced hectic life and the second one, well, let’s keep it for the latter minute. Before that let me introduce myself. My good name is Mr. E-VLP-9-AI-12-3. I know it’ll take you a minute to digest my name because it’s a bit weird. I am the tiffin that Mr. Raghu , my owner uses every day to fill his stomach. So, here’s my daily schedule.


Mrs. Raghu stuffs me with ample amount of food in the morning and every day at9 am, I am handed over to my master. Mumbaikars call my master a dabbawala. There are 5000 of them in the city who deliver tiffins to 200,000 of people. So one dabbawala carries nearly 40 tiffins on his head every day, that is an average weight of 66 kgs. From Mr. Raghu’s residence, I am carried to nearest railway station, Vileparle. At railway station many of the tiffins are kept together in a container. Then, that dense tiffin container is carried by my master on his head, into a dense human container. I think they call the human container a local train.


After changing 3 trains, and travelling 40 kms, I reach Churchgate. From there another dabbawala takes me to Mr. Raghu’s office. This is my daily routine. Adding 40 kms of return journey, I travel 80 kms a day. And you know the best part? I am never ever delivered to anyone except my owner. That is the height of precision and accuracy with which my master discharges his duty. We have an amazing error rate of 1 in 16 million transactions for which we have been recognised with Six Sigma performance (99.9999% error free). And my master doesn’t use technology of any kind during those 9 hours of his work ship. Now that’s where my name comes to rescue the dabbawala. The VLP in my name stands for Vileparle railway station, my origin railway station. E is for Hanuman road, an area within Vile Parle and my first destination of whole journey. 9 represents Nariman point, AI means Air India building and 12 is the floor where I am to be delievered. And that number 3 in the centre os the code for destination railway station, Churchgate.

Richard-Branson-Dabbawalas 1006858

Average literacy among the dabbawalas is 8th grade. The most astonishing fact is that students from world renowned colleges like IIMs and  Harward University were compelled to study the clever, tech-free management system adopted by Mumbai Dabbawalas. Imagine an illiterate as a syllabus of a post graduate. Their dedication has been recognised and appreciated by many world famous personalities including Prince Charles and Mr. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin group. Only three people from India were invited to attend Prince Charles’ grand wedding and guess what? Two out of three were Mumbai dabbawalas. The dabbawalas have become an inseparable part of Mumbaikars’ lives and they are glad to have them. There have been many cases where the owner puts his salary into the tiffin, which is safely delivered to his residence. This is the level of trust they have on dabbawalas.For the task that they do, they only take a salary of mere 8000 rupees a month.

This is the level of dedication and commitment my master has towards his work. Neither floods nor the hot sun has the power to stop them. These stalwarts dots the i’s and crosses the t’s 365 days, 7 weeks and 24 hours. The intensity with which they deliver, they’ve literally set the Thames on fire. The job which they fulfill really proves that they are made of the sternest stuff. So next time if you see a dabbawla, don’t hesitate to smile and say, “ tu mahaam ahes. Salaam karto tumhala”. Take my word, those angels are worth it.

Admirable India

Post by: Falan Vachhrajani


7 thoughts on “Mumbai Dabbawala’s : The Illiterate MBA’s

  1. U write sulerb and hearttouching ,falan u just cant stop here my brother u have to write more nd more..cause its not fair inuf its youre startining youre journey never finishh..there is no fullstop ….good luck brother.i appreciate ur telent


  2. Luv the article my dear friend
    U write some of the finest articles I ever read.
    Don’t ever stop ur incomparable talent of writing such beautifully……


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