Mumbai Dabbawala as they are commonly known are capable of giving you one of the best management lessons. They are quit unique and their key learning experience was education not decided by degrees. It is a presentation that could match the standards of a management guru.

Mumbai Dabbawalas is a team of about 5000 people who carry lunch boxes from people’s homes and then serve them lunch in their offices. Sounds like a very simple business but it’s appreciated a lot for its excellent management, accuracy and reliability. They even have a six sigma and an ISO certification which big companies struggle to get. What’s astonishing is that 85 % of the team is illiterate and the other 15 % are not degree holders.

They even have a video that shows the working of Dabbawalas, their operate, network, values and all other details.

Some of the key things that you should know about the Dabbawalas are :

  • They carry 200 thousand lunch boxes every day to all the corners of Mumbai with a high accuracy of 99.99 %. This means that only 1 out of 1 million services have a chance of going wrong.
  • The average age of the people working is 50 years and they lift weights of around 50-60 kg overhead.
  • Every person is a shareholder and gets equal salary irrespective of their age, distance traveled, or the amount of work.
  • Their dependency on technology is less. They travel via local trains and bicycles and don’t have offices. Thus, the capital involved is minimum
  • Color coding is used to tag the destination written on top of the lunch box. It may be carried over by more than 6 people so it reaches the correct destination.
  • Sorting the lunch boxes is done online, on the road, or in local trains etc and it happens almost all the time without any mistakes.
  • Mumbai housewives fear the Dabbawalas more than their husbands because they have to keep the lunch box ready punctually because a delay of more than 10 seconds is not tolerated and a repeated mistake for 4-5 days may lead to the termination of the service.
  • The cost of the service is actually very less. It’s as low as Rs. 300 per month.
  • This business has continued from the past 119 years successfully without any strike.


They are very strict about the practices they follow in their business. The things that have kept them successful for so many years and still continuing are:

  • They keep everything simple. It’s good particularly in their business because many of them are not literate even.
  • Everyone is a share holder and that gives them all a sense of responsibility.
  • Customers are absolutely important. For example when Prince Charles wanted to meet them, the Dabbawalas decided the time and venue of the meeting so that customer service was not affected.
  • To start their business, they used existing infrastructure and minimized capital invested.
  • Find good employees. Even if a person is under qualified, they are fine with it because an under qualified person is always more motivated than over qualified one. This especially works well for their business.
  • They have employees work for longer durations at one places so they make pleasant relationships with clients.


There is a lot more to learn from them. Commitment to work pays off, and the Dabbawalas display that well.