I recently watched a movie that failed to impress me, but something else caught my attention. I was on the hunt for topics while watching the movie, and you can guess what happened next. This writeup came into being.
Now I’ve no idea what you all may have assumed my topic to be. So, I’ll give you all two clues. I’ve written on certain people, and the movie I watched was “The Lunchbox”.
If you haven’t guessed who I’ve written about already, they are the dabbawallas. I chose to write on the dabbawallas, because each fact associated with them, teaches us something, that we all can inculcate in our lives.
Now it all started in the 1890s, Mumbai, when Mahadeo Havaji Bachche started a lunch delivery service with about 100 men, primarily because of sheer necessity. This service gradually grew popular, with more people joining in as dabbawallas. A lot of people from various places reaching the big cities, and lack of restaurants around to calm the hunger pangs at noon, lead to the idea of delivering homemade food, from the client’s home to the office, and then the empty lunchbox back home. Years rolled on, and the name of the commercial arm of the trust of dabbawallas changed from Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers’ Trust to Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers’ Association.
A lot of us find it hard to organise the stuff lying about here and there in our room. But what if the responsibility of taking care of some 200,000 people’s lunchbox was on you? Before we go ahead, I’d also like us all to just address the fact that the organisation started with just 100 men, and now we are talking about delivering food to 200000 people already.
The dabbawallas use a specific colour code for identifying lunchboxes. Every lunchbox has a colour-coded notation attached to the handle, which indicates who the owner of the lunchbox is, where it needs to be delivered, and the priority level of the lunchbox. If this technology of organising things made things so much simpler, we should try implying it. Organising things provide us with clarity, which in turn gives us the energy or motivation to work hard, every single day. That should be the first lesson to learn from these superhumans.
For all those who don’t know, most of the dabbawallas, are semi-literate or completely illiterate. Yes, you heard that right. An organisation that has an ISO certification is run by people who probably didn’t even know what it meant until they received it. An ISO certification means that an organization has a certain level of assured quality. The dabbawallas had to be certified, for their error rate is 1 in 16 million times, which surpasses the error rate 3.4 in 1 million times (called six sigma), and that’s something followed by big companies.
Now the dabbawallas recognized the need of the hour and then their talent in serving the customers above everything else. Recognize, visualize, commit, and work. Though these words don’t start with the same letter, they go hand in hand with each other. Consider that as the second lesson we can learn from India’s, more specifically Mumbai’s most favourite people.
Now I’d like to talk about, what I feel, are the top 3 most relevant qualities we can learn from the dabbawallas, as students.
Here we go.
‘This organisation hires no employees, rather, it has many shareholders”, said the president of the dabbawallas. He added that by considering everyone as a shareholder, a sense of ownership was created, which makes the dabbawallas work with self- discipline, even with the absence of any superior. Discipline is necessary because staying motivated all the time is not an easy task.
Next up, time management. Though the dabbawallas have so many deliveries to make, it has never served as an excuse for late deliveries, because that never happens. A dabbawalla works for an average amount of 8-9 hours a day, which includes 3 hours of so-called “war-time”, in the morning. Even then, the complain “I don’t have time” never comes up for them. Now that’s quite a quality we all would look forward to having.
Lastly, but most importantly, none of this would’ve been this inspiring or amusing if not for the teamwork. The age-old quote- “United we stand, divided we fall’’, is the motto that the dabbawallas follow.
They say that humans cannot learn from a set of rules, as they like to question everything. And that’s true. So, to make the process of learning easier, stories and examples were used. And there’s never a lack of examples to learn from. It’s all about keeping our eyes open and observing our surroundings. The dabbawallas have had an experience of 125 years, and it’s all ours to learn from. Because while it is wise to learn from experience, it is wiser to learn from the experience of others.