We are Dabbawala, (one who carries the box), in the Indian city of Mumbai. We carry and deliver freshly made food from customer’s home in a lunch box (Dabba) and deliver it to offices.
It may sound simple, but it’s not.
It is actually a highly specialized trade that has evolved in its current form over a century and has become integral to Mumbai’s culture.
We are about 5000 in number and deliver approximately 200,000 tiffin boxes every day.
How it all started:
It all started about 125 years back when a Parasi banker wanted to have home cooked food regularly in office and gave this responsibility to the first ever Dabbawala. Other people also liked the idea and the demand for Dabba delivery soared.
It was all informal and individual effort in the beginning, but visionary Mahadeo Havaji Bachche saw the opportunity and started the lunch delivery service in its present team-delivery format with 100 Dabbawalas.
As the city grew, the demand for dabba delivery grew too. Our forefathers had the vision to create the Dabba coding system that’s going on strong even today.
The Coding system evolved through various stages with time. In the beginning it was simple colour coding. Now Mumbai is a widely spread metro with 3 local train routes. Our coding has also evolved into alpha numeric characters.
We are mostly semi literate people of Warkari sect from rural Maharashtra. We feel a sense of pride that our work and dedication is appreciated world over.
Eminent personalities like Prince Charles have visited us. Prince even invited us to his wedding.
If you ask us who is the most famous Dabbawala in the world? We will say Mr Richard Branson! He actually travelled with us like a Dabbawala and delivered a huge tiffin to his own employees at Virgin, Mumbai.
We are recognised as delivering 6 sigma level of accuracy in our dabba delivery. That means only 1 mistake in 6 million chances.
There are innumerable documentaries made on our Dabba delivery system.
We have been featured in many news programmes; we are mentioned in literature as well. University delegates from all around the world keep visiting us.