Project #156117 - Business Function in Context

Business Tutors

Subject Business
Due By (Pacific Time) 11/29/2016 06:00 pm

Dabbawalas hit 99.9999% dependability



مربع نص: Source: Getty ImagesMumbai is India’s most densely populated city, and every working day its millions of commuters’ crowd onto packed trains for an often lengthy commute to their workplaces. Going home for lunch is not possible; so many office workers have a cooked meal sent either from their home, or from a caterer. It is Mumbai’s 5,000-strong dabbawala collective that provides this service, usually for a monthly fee. The meal is cooked in the morning (by family or caterer), placed in regulation dabbas or tiffin (lunch) boxes and delivered to each individual worker’s office at lunch time. After lunch the boxes are collected and returned so that they can be re-sent the next day. ‘Dabbawala’ means ‘one who carries a box’, or more colloquially, ‘lunch box delivery man”. This is how the service works:


7am–9am The dabbas (boxes) are collected by dabbawalas on bicycles from nearly 200,000 suburban homes or from the dabba makers and taken to railway stations. The dabbas have distinguishing marks on them, using colours and symbols (necessary because many dabbawalas are barely literate). The dabbawala then takes them to a designated sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort (and sometimes bundle) the lunch boxes into groups.


9am–11am The grouped boxes are put in the coaches of trains, with markings to identify the destination of the box (usually there is a designated car for the boxes). The markings include the rail station where the boxes are to be unloaded and the building address where the box has to be delivered. This may involve boxes being sorted at intermediary stations, with each single dabba changing hands up to four times.


10am–12midday Dabbas taken into Mumbai using the otherwise under-utilized capacity on commuter trains in the mid-morning.


11am–12midday Arrive downtown Mumbai where dabbas are handed over to local dabbawalas, who distribute them to more locations where there is more sorting and loading on to handcarts, bicycles and dabbawalas.


12midday–1pm Dabbas are delivered to appropriate office locations.


2pm Process moves into reverse, after lunch, when the empty boxes are collected from office locations and returned to suburban stations.


6pm Empty dabbas sent back to the respective houses.


The service has a remarkable record of almost flawlessly reliable delivery, even on the days of severe weather such as Mumbai’s characteristic monsoons. Dabbawalas all receive the same pay and at both the receiving and the sending ends, are known to the customers personally, so are trusted by customers. Also, they are well accustomed to the local areas they collect from or deliver to, which reduces the chances of errors. Raghunath Medge, the president of the Bombay Tiffin Box Supply Charity

Trust, which oversees the dabbawallas, highlights the importance of their hands-on operations management.

‘Proper time management is our key to success. We do everything to keep the customer happy and they help in our marketing.’ There is no system of documentation. The success of the operation depends on teamwork and

human ingenuity. Such is the dedication and commitment of the barefoot delivery men (there are only a few delivery women) that the complex logistics operation works with only three layers of management. Although the service remains essentially low-tech, with the barefoot delivery men as the prime movers, the dabbawalas now use

some modern technology, for example they now allow booking for delivery through SMS and their web site.


Slack. N., Stuart, C., and Robert, J. (2010) Operations Management. Harlow, England: Financial Times Prentice Hall.




II. Discussion Questions :


Question 1 (400 words, 40 marks)

Taking the example of the Dabbawala service as an example, discuss the five performance objectives of an operation.

Question 2 (300 words, 30 marks)

Why does the Dabbawalas’ service offer such an amazing dependability?

Question 3 (300 words, 30 marks)

What do you think are the main threats to this service?



General instructions for students:

This TMA should be written by students individually.

Plagiarism: It’s imperative that you write your answer using your own words. Plagiarism will be penalized depending on its severity and according to AOU plagiarism policy.

Format:  you are expected to write your answer in an essay format: introduction, body paragraph(s) and a conclusion. Failing to do so could result in the deduction of up to 4 marks from your total TMA mark.

Word count: your answer is expected to be within the specified word count range. Not adhering to specified word count could result in the deduction of up to 4 marks of your total TMA mark.

Referencing:  You are expected to use the Harvard referencing style for in-text referencing and list of reference at the end. Failing to do so could result in the deduction of up to 4 marks of your total TMA mark.




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