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.

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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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