In Mumbai 200,000 home cooked meals are delivered to office workers every day by Dabbawalas in 'Tiffins' and it's a system that works!


We think of ourselves as well ahead of the game well sometimes we are far too clever for our own good, let us look at the way India manages its food distribution throughout Mumbai? We agree when you look at India and food there must be issues here, big ones include real poverty so not all is rosy in the garden but they are doing some things with a degree of what I would call 'old fashioned common sense', something over my life I have realised is not quite so common to be honest!
Every day in Mumbai 200,000 meals are cooked, delivered to offices in Tiffins and the returns brought back to the chefs and are re used! This just makes so much sense, but there is nothing new here they have been doing this for over 120 years and it employs about 5000 people in the delivery part alone!
The Tiffin is the ultimate 'lunch box' made by thousands of usually wives and mothers, India still has gender roles, and distributed by a small army of self employed 'Dabbawalas'who view the role and a job for life.
The traditional 'Tiffin' has multiple layers, this is an example of an old Copper one, today there made of stainless steel but essentially they have remained unchanged since they began.
Talking of how it all began this 'ahead of the game' idea was the brainchild of Mahadeo Havaji Bacche, a Parsi banker. He wanted a delivered lunch way back in 1890 to his office. He employed a man from Pune to deliver it to him and the rest as they say, is history. In those early beginnings he started with only about 100 Dabbawalas which has grown 50 times over into the now 5000 people doing this for their living.
So does it really work? Well actually the answer is YES, it really does, complex of course but the success rates are estimated at 99.9 percent of all lunches reaching the customer, its highly cost effective, last reports were said to cost the user £5.50 per month, thats the cost of one sandwich in single use plastic to boot in the high end UK establishments, and that is for a whole month! Other than this there is literally no waste, the tiffin is re used time and time again, what were we saying about good old 'common sense'?
We can all learn from these ways, it is said the 'error' rate is as little as one delivery in every six million! Such a system has not eluded the eyes of our great universities and indeed we believe Harvard Business School has studied the model and it is reportedly the envy of FedEx!
Every lunch comes in two, three or four tiers; the bottom is the largest typically with the rice, while the others include options like a curry or a side of vegetables, maybe a dal and flatbreads. Of course there is also a dessert, could this be anything else than fantastic?
So what are we to learn from this, well single use plastics are a bad thing, Dabbawalas appear to be working and producing little to no waste, there is a real message in here. Our universities are studying it, businesses are learning from it but, and its a big but, we are simply not acting on what is staring us in the face. We know what we are doing, we know it is wrong, we know how to put base principles in to change but we are not doing it?
Perhaps it's big business just making money, perhaps it is us, are we are to lazy to change, perhaps it is our workload, there are always excuses but for me now is the time, now must be the time or we will miss the boat.
At FOSH we make reusable water bottles and beakers, something we feel so proud to be doing, follow us, follow right from wrong and if this article has done anything let it make you think about the way your life impacts the world we inhabit, make a simple change, buy a reusable water bottle for £20, it is a start and from here who knows where you can go!
Well done Mumbai and thank you for reading our article.
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