TEDxSSN – Dr. Pawan Agrawal – Mumbai Dabbawalas

TEDxSSN – Dr. Pawan Agrawal – Mumbai Dabbawalas


Translator: TAMIU Elearning
Reviewer: Queenie Lee Friends, everybody, good evening. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you, TEDxSSN,
for giving an opportunity on behalf of dabbawala. For the first time in my life, after 550 sessions, I’m delivering
for the first time in 18 minutes. Give me best wishes. I’ll complete it. (Applause) Friends, as far as Mumbai
Dabbawalas are concerned, in Mumbai, these people are excellent. I’m going to speak about the story. Believe me, you will learn a lot provided you must have
the passion to listen to them and to follow them how they’re working
in Mumbai, friends. Basically, many people believe
that dabbawalas means they are caterers. Let me tell you,
dabbawalas are not caterers. Tiffin is yours, and food
contained in this is also yours. What we are doing in Mumbai, we are delivering your tiffin from your home to workplace
before lunchtime. And lunch is over, we will deliver empty tiffin
in the evening at home on the same day. It means we are doing
two deliveries in a day. Friends, in Mumbai,
you cannot carry tiffin yourself. The reason? You start
very early in the morning. Even you want to reach home at 9 o’clock. You may start 6 o’clock. You don’t want your mother
or wife should cook 5 o’clock. So you cannot carry.
You want, we should carry your tiffin. Second reason? You cannot carry tiffin – The reason? Crowded local train. In Mumbai, it’s very difficult to board
a local train with an empty hand. Taking tiffin is out of the question
for you; you cannot carry yourself. So you want dabbawala
in Mumbai to carry your tiffin. We believe that home-cooked food
is most hygienic food. The reason? It has love and affection
of your mother and wife, so we want you should
eat home-cooked food. That is Mumbai Dabbawalas. Friends, these people
believe in God Ganesha, Nareshwara. They are Varkari sampradaya people. This business started before 1890. (Hindi) We have been delivering food
for more than a century now since 1890. (English) Because we are delivering
from 1890, friends, 1890! In 1890, one dabbawala, one customer. As for today, we’ll see we are having 5,000 dabbawalas
and 200,000 customers. It means one dabbawala
can carry 40 tiffins. That is the maximum weight he can carry;
that can have 60-65 kg they are carrying. In crowded local train in Mumbai, friends, they all are average
eighth-grade schooling. 50% dabbawalas are illiterate. They do not know reading, writing, but suppose they want
to deliver tiffin in SSN College, being illiterate, they know this is SSN,
because tiffin should be delivered in SSN. (Applause) Literacy of work, friends, traveling 60 kilometers, 70 kilometers,
eight to nine hours, they believe ownership
of eight to nine hours, but morning three hours are overtime. Why? Customer should
deliver tiffin in time. In 120 years, not a single
time it happened, your lunchtime started,
dabbawala not yet came! Impossible! Impossible. (Applause) (Cheers) They will not tell you
trains are late in Mumbai, because trains are running
every day late in Mumbai. We cannot come late. Friends, so commitment,
so passion, structure is there. They don’t know what is structure. Dabbawalas say this is stretcher. When I spoke one dabbawala,
it’s not stretcher, structure. What did he answer? “No problem, sir, if stretcher
is strong patient goes to bed. If structure is strong,
tiffin goes to the customer.” That’s it; that’s their belief. (Applause) Friends, the last is what is mukadam. All you know is mukadam is group leader. We are ten, 20, 30 dabbawalas, one group. In one group, the highest aged member
is the group leader. He controls whole activities
of the group, of the members. Friends, so passionate. Group leader is not getting
single rupee extra income. But he controls the whole activities. Why? He gets the opportunity
to become the group leader. Friends, see working of Nutan
Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association: very first is error rate,
one in 16 million transactions. Can you imagine? (Applause) (Cheers) Because dabbawala believes that (Applause) as you are giving claps,
my seconds are reducing, so please listen to me more. (Laughter) Friends, one error not there. This one error disclosed
by qualified people. Dabbawala says we don’t have any error because an error is a horror;
don’t look into a mirror, it is a danger. Don’t do error.
That’s their belief, friends. Can you imagine this? Friends, they’ve got six sigma
phukat and without application. They got six sigma certification. No, nobody can go out in the world, six sigma certification
without application. Dabbawala got. Imagine friends,
that, too, without technology. Their technology is their brain. They believe this is computer, and this is computer cover;
like that they feel. (Laughter) Everything is in the mind. 40 customers’ name, number, address,
everything is in their mind, friends. How much do they charge, my dear? Per month: 350 rupees. If you calculate per day,
it comes to 11-12 rupees. Friends, in Mumbai, a courier man charges
for a small delivery, 15 rupees, a small delivery. They do two deliveries
and charging 11-12 rupees. Why? Customers should
have economically feasible. If we increase, customer will
discontinue our services. Because customer should
sustain, we charge less. And how much do they earn?
5,000-6,000 per month, average. Friends, if you work in Mumbai for 10 months, two months, suppose you
are posted to Chennai, sir, dabbawala will take charges
only for 10 months, not for 12 months, because they believe I served you
10 months, not 12 months. My child goes to school for seven months, buswala charge for 12 months,
not for seven months. Is it right? But dabbawala charges
only for 10 months. Why? The customer is our god. They believe my customer Mera bagwan hain. They feel that you are a god, friends. Work is worship.
And see, they want extra income, but even if they want bonus,
without condition. Sometimes, some customers
refuse to pay bonus. If suppose one customer
refuse to pay bonus, he will not discontinue your services. Why? If I discontinue,
then my customer will remain without food. So better I should supply food. I asked one dabbawala –
he has not [been] paid bonus. “Why are you supplying?” What he answered? “Sir, he has not paid bonus,
but he paid for 12 months. For one month bonus, if I discontinue,
I will lose 12 months salary. What do I sacrifice one month bonus
or 12 months salary? One month bonus, no problem.” And that’s the reason in 120 years,
no strike record in the history, imagine!? (Cheers) (Applause) Friends, disputes are there. We also dispute, but even [when]
we dispute, no police case, no court case. We don’t have legal department at all
because we don’t require. So excellent. What I meant to say was work satisfaction
because of work culture. Not only dabbawala. Let me speak some examples
how dabbawala customers are satisfied. I asked one customer,
“Are you satisfied with the service?” Customer replied,
“Oh, they are excellent.” “What excellent yet? Tiffin is yours. Food contained is yours. What excellence do they give?” What did he answer? “Sir, when I leave early morning,
sometimes I forget my spectacles, my mobile at home. Then my wife sent
through tiffin in my office.” (Laughter) You will call value-added services
by dabbawala, free of charge. They give, can you imagine? One customer told they are very excellent. “We have full faith in dabbawala.” “Faith, they will not eat your food yet?” “No, no, sir when we get salary.” What customer told me: “When I get a salary,
I’m afraid of to carry in my pocket.” “Then what do you do?” After eating food,
he put the salary into empty tiffin, and the empty tiffin with the salary
delivered by dabbawala safely, the customer said. (Cheers) (Applause) I have at least 18 examples,
but I can’t give in 18 minutes. One more example: One customer told me
dabbawala is good for me. Why? One experience. What is that? He told me, “Sir, a couple of months back,
I disputed with my wife.” He’s an Indian husband;
you dispute, no problem. You have a right. (Laughter) No, I have beaten my wife,
Mar dena, no problem. (Laughter) After beating his wife,
angry young man, Indian husband, (Hindi) Will not break
and will not bend. (English) You know that? Can be cut down but not bent down. Even he has beaten his wife,
next day morning, took his bag, told his wife “I will not come back home;
our relation comes to an end.” He went back. He went to the office. Angry young man, Indian husband. (Laughter) As usual, 9:30 dabbawala came home. Indian wife (Hindi), even husband has beaten her,
she wanted to deliver tiffin. Maybe the last tiffin – he is not going to come back,
but she wanted to deliver. Friends, that dabbawala
delivered tiffin at lunchtime – tiffin delivered to office at lunchtime. The customer saw the tiffin. That angry young man husband, but morning angry young man
now become the hungry young man. (Laughter) He opened the tiffin. He saw the written message
on the top of the tiffin by his wife: “Oh, my beloved husband, I love you a lot. Forget what happened in the morning.
Eat my food, it is delicious.” Wife has given message to husband
delivered by dabbawala. They do free service for you. (Cheers) (Laughter) (Applause) Friends, the husband also felt shy. In return, he wants
to do something for his wife. He brought two cinema tickets,
put into empty tiffin, return message to his wife,
“I love you lot.” That’s it. (Cheers) (Applause) Friends, I want to message you all, knowingly, unknowingly,
a customer is a god, but provided you should do passionately. Provided you do it attitude approach
and discipline, friends. They don’t alcohol, no smoking
during working hours. Cap is compulsory. ID card is compulsory. No leaving without prior notice
in business, otherwise 1,000 rupees fine. Friends, how they work. (Video) Narrator: The Mumbai Dabbawalas
are a close-knit group of 5,000 people of stamina, values, and ethics. They are engaged in the business
of collecting tiffin boxes filled with homemade food
from different houses and distributing them at the workplaces
of the earning members of these families in the pre-noon PA: This man is 75 years old. (Video) and returning empty boxes
to the respective houses in the afternoon. They move 200,000 such lunches to 200,000 people working
in different organizations. (Video ends) PA: Can you imagine, friends? 75-year-old man is working with a 65 kg, because they believe I’m the soldier
of Shivaji Maharaj. I’m very strong, and they work, friends. There is no retirement age. As on today, one man is up to 79-year old
and working in the organization. Believe me, friends, in our company, many dabbawalas are working
last 40-50 years in one company. And industry people
taught me attrition retention. Great. Can you imagine, friends? Sir, we have zero attrition rate. Not a single dabbawala left
in last 120 years in the organization. Can you imagine this? (Applause) I message you also work
in the same fashion, friends. This is a whole day schedule how we work. Coding system: In the beginning,
we have the color thread, then tags, then paint, then alphabet, and this is today’s coding system. I’m sorry, I cannot cover. Time is very short. Our kiruba is great. Friends, VLP is the Vile Parle, the residential area of the customer. E is the dabbawala who will
collect tiffin from Vile Parle, three number stands for working area. I’ll repeat again. We do coding on the top of the tiffin. VLP stands for residential area
of the customers. Number E stand for dabbawala
who will collect from your residence and your work place working area
is Nariman Point. E dabbawala will collect from Vile Parle. This tiffin will travel
from Vile Parle to Nariman Point, and at least six times
this tiffin will mix by six group people. But it will not mix. It will reach Nariman Point
without any mix-up. At Nariman Point,
Mr. Nine will pick the tiffin. He will deliver at Express Tower
at the 12th floor. No address, no name,
but deliveries perfect every day. Can you imagine? (Applause) Friends, listen to me. This is the D’Souza
written by D’Souza himself, because he could not
recognize his own tiffin, that’s why he writes his name. (Laughter) Dabbawala knows your tiffin;
you don’t know which is your tiffin. So great you are. (Applause) Volume: How this coding? Just see. (Video) Narrator: Every day
with practically no mix-ups at all. PA: A simple matchstick. (Video) … lies in coding system
that’s simple and very effective. This lunch box, which contains the meal
Swati has cooked for her husband, has been coded VLP 23 MT 10 on the top, and Q3 is scribbled below. PA: Friend, no brush required. Simple piece of paper;
a simple matchstick becomes a brush. When you wash tiffin at home,
sometimes our coding is not visible. Any dabbawala comes to know, he will remove color
and will write with a finger. He will not say, “It is not my job.” He will do the job because within the organization
everybody is responsible. So great this passionate of dabbawalas. (Video) … that 200,000 of them
are having it on all working days on time, thanks to the Mumbai Dabbawalas. The shelf life of these lunches
are just four to five hours. Therefore – PA: Friends, luggage compartment,
they are traveling. (Video) One tiffin box
shifts hands in transit at least six times before it reaches
its consumer is in his office. The same is the case
in its return journey as an empty tiffin. PA: How they do sorting? (Video) … but the spontaneous sorting. Everyone is picking up his tiffins
as per his delivery areas. Tiffins for areas with more density
are transported on carts collectively. Some tiffins are on bicycles. And some are personally taken by hand. From here, the tiffins move – (Video ends) PA: Friends, these are some times
when we lost business. This was a documentary made by UTV MTV. A to Z TV made a documentary
on dabbawalas. Many awards. They got ISO phukat without application. One among top 50 entrepreneur,
Indian entrepreneur influence Mumbai. That is dabbawala. (Cheers) (Applause) Many achievements;
I have done PhD on them. It’s my honor. Prince Charles came to Mumbai – only three Indians invited, friends – but when Prince Charles came to India,
Mr. Jitendar Jain, he told dabbawala, “Mr. Dabbawala, Prince Charles
wants to visit you.” Dabbawala told, “I don’t know
who is Prince Charles. Oh, he’s the king of London? Oh, king of London.
I will allow him to visit, no problem.” (Laughter) (Applause) With two conditions. First condition: Prince Charles
should come 11:20 to 11:40 because dabbawala is free those time. That’s why he should come that time. Second: We will not go to Prince Charles. Prince Charles should come to us. Where? Church Gate footpath. Friends, Mr. Jain asked
why you have these conditions? What dabbawala answered,
“Sir, he is a great king. But our two lakh customers
are greater king. We cannot disturb the customer
of dabbawalas for him. (Applause) Richard Branson, he came to Mumbai. He brought his own tiffin
from London, cap. We are honored, and he was excellent. He told [us] we are great. Chief minister came to inaugurate
the book written by this lady. Sir, chief minister came. What he told in his speech? I always reach one hour
after the function. But today when I came
to dabbawala program, I came five minutes
before the program. Why? If I was two minutes late, all dabbawala could have gone,
and it was an insult to me. So he came in time. (Applause) (Cheers) It means you should work
in time consistently, not because CM is coming. That’s what dabbawala has given. Governor mayor honored dabbawala
after Prince Charles not before that, the specialty of India. Many, many places when I went. I have written one book on dabbawala;
really they are great friends. Excellency, all over we got opportunity
delivered many, many, many places. Of course, you must be knowing, when Prince Charles was married,
dabbawala invited. Only three Indians. Among three Indians, two were dabbawalas,
and they are excellent, friends. Even Prince Charles writing letter,
social commitment. They are excellent, friends, contributing some rupees
for the association. Now, we are giving education to dabbawala.
Maybe English, maybe a computer with this. And, really, friends, thank you. You invited me because
I require 30 minutes more. (Cheers) (Applause)

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. Please raise the wages of Dabbawala as they are great greater greatest workers in the world. Hats off !! We are big zero in front of you

  2. Hats off to prompt dabbawalas…
    Their skill and hardwork should really respected in a large scale.
    They should be given with much salary that's sufficient for the survival is the while dabbawala family in a good way…

  3. Look at their dedication, commitment and self satisfied attitude. lot to learn. As against them, there is crowd of software so called "engineers" who are unhappy, cribbing all the time, despite earning much more than they deserve. Once yearly increment is out, no matter what % it is, no matter how much they earn, nearly everyone wants 5% – 10% more than they get. Person who gets 30% expects 35%, 25% expects 30%, 20% expects 25% and they all remain unhappy. Dont even talk about dedication and commitment. Of course, some exceptions are there but majorly above is the scenarios in software companies. There is lot to learn from these Dabbawalahs.

  4. This is all unbelievable but this is the truth of mumbai dabavala.
    l
    salute you are time management, also i salute you are energy and confidence
    Great work

  5. Outstanding management but avoid exploitation of poor people who carry tiffin and government approved wages rate should be paid them.

  6. Salute to these guys. How they are doing looks amazing. We are paying so much money to DHL , FedEx, expensive postal services but getting so delayed and many errors in delivery in western world. But these Indian guys are doing by heart and soul that why they are best of the best. Salutes to these people. World need to learn from them and admire them

  7. 14K-15K per month for delivering 40 dabbas. I think it's more difficult than fast delievery on bicycle in newyork

  8. Your honesty , punctuality and your perfection in work is brilliant sir and most importantly when u believe your customer as a god . You work without technology is great . Great salute

  9. Superb nice speech very inspiration speech front of young generation…sir u true said customer is god.πŸ˜ƒπŸ€ŸβœŒοΈβœŒοΈπŸ‘Œur people more hard worker….

  10. Trust me this presentation would have been much better if it was in hindi. Sadly, he had to do it in english but he did a real good job.

  11. Seen loads of videos till now but i could say this is the best video it literally gave me a goosebumps … Respect

  12. The guy said: The Indian politicians and organisations gave them credit and recognition for their work after prince Charles visit. The west was always quick to identify, give credit and try to learn old/ancient Indian systems (for e.g. yoga, meditation etc.) before Indians themselves realized its importance The sad reality.

  13. When this man was learning English, why did noone teach him to put the emphASis on the correct syllLABle? Four minutes in, the only words I've understood from him are numbers…

  14. Amazon must donate at least 10 million dollars to dabbawalas and appreciate them for their efforts .. Salman and Bollywood stars must donate some lakhs for them to honour the great maharashtrian pride … Make an ad for them or something and increase their business flow .. Kindness , a forgotten tool in the modern age ..

  15. See, He is not dappawala but he did researched dabbawala work and got all credits to him instead of Dabbawalas. All credit goes to real hardworkers.

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