Learning From The Dabbawala

Have you heard of the dabbawala? Well, I hadn’t until I ran across an article in The Economist called The cult of the dabbawala. It turns out that this group in Mumbai that delivers daily lunches has attained incredible levels of operational efficiency without the use of any technology. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Using an elaborate system of colour-coded boxes to convey over 170,000 meals to their destinations each day, the 5,000-strong dabbawala collective has built up an extraordinary reputation for the speed and accuracy of its deliveries… The system the dabbawalas have developed over the years revolves around strong teamwork and strict time-management… The meals are then delivered-99.9999% of the time, to the right address.

My take: It’s good to see very clearly that technology is not the solution to all problems. By developing and maintaining a very simple system with clear rules, people can understand and deliver on the objectives of that system and consistently meet customer expectations; just like the dabbawala.

The bottom line: Many processes can use a simplicity makeover.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

One thought on “Learning From The Dabbawala”

  1. hi, I am a customer service professional and just started to blog on all matters relating to customer service or the lack of it. I just love to read about Dabbawallas and yes i m blown away with this highly organized labour intensive network with little or no technology help and yet able to deliver such efficient service like clock work. I hope you like my blog on customer service and sure love to leverage on your wonderful site. Can we have some kind of link up to benefit our readers further?

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