Dabbawala Case Study: How Mumbai Thrives On This Model?

Dabbawala Case Study

Mumbai dabbawala service has made it easy for the people to have and enjoy freshly home cooked meals either at their offices or other working places.

This service has led many people who hail from different parts of the country come to Mumbai to work and live, to have a meal which is home cooked and healthy.

Dabbawala Case Study

Let’s start with our discussion of the Mumbai Dabbawala Case Study and how Mumbai has been living on this model since decades! 

(A) Mumbai Dabbawala Profile 

Mumbai Dabbawala or the name by which is famously called, “The Dabba Service” started from the late 1800s i.e. 1890, serves freshly cooked meals to people either from their homes or from the dabba service places. 

The Dabbawala service was initially started by Mahadeo Havaji Bachche in 1890 as a small business, and now has become one of the world recognized businesses. 

Name of the business Mumbai Dabbawala 
Founder Mahadeo Havaji Bachche
Founded 1890 
Base of the company Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
Area served Mumbai, India.
Registered in In 1956, a charitable trust was registered under
the name of Nutan Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. 
Commercial registration The commercial arm of the trust was registered
in 1968 as Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. 
Daily meals delivery count Over 2,00,000 meals are delivered per day. 
Clients count 1,000+ clients 
Number of people working Over 5,000. 
Services provided Dabba service, 
Lectures, seminars, & ted talk,
Digital dabbawala, 
Mobile app,
Centralized kitchen. 
A day with dabbawala, etc. 
Seminars conducted 3,500+ seminars.
Most recognized recognition 1n 1998, Forbes Global Magazine awarded a
Six Sigma rating of 99.999999%, to Mumbai
Dabbawala Service, due to their excellence and
quality assurance study of their operations. 
Website mumbaidabbawala.in
Mumbai Dabbawala Profile

Apart from being a prominent dabba service in Mumbai, it also offers various services and facilities like, Ted talk in various business schools, seminars, lectures, a day with dabbawala, app service, etc. all the factors which contributes to its key position as the leading player in the dabba service in Mumbai. 

Dabbawala service

Beyond all this, Mumbai dabbawala has been awarded with various recognition like the Six Sigma.

That narrates the tale of Mumbai Dabbawala of not only showcasing an unparalleled service but have also earned their place in the global standards of operational efficiency by achieving Six Sigma certification, which translates to an error ration of just 1 in 16 million, or simply translated as a single error in 1,60,00,000 lunch boxes.

(B) Dabbawala Business Model 

The business model used by Dabbawala is a blend of simplicity, user-centric approach, efficiency, and dedication. The dabbawalas work on a single aim, i.e. to serve the people and the society with their best services. 

The Mumbai Dabbawala service operates their business mainly on four pillars, i.e. organization, management, process, and culture. 

Aspects Reason 
Organization The Dabbawala has a simple and refined organization structure which helps them in making quick decisions. The regular schedule determines the time to complete a task and the time allotted. 
Management The Dabbawalas manage themselves and their business according to the customer acquisition, concerning logistics, etc. A good management helps them operate their service efficiently and maintain their quality high and charges low.
Process The proper process signifies more than just implementing and executing effective workflows and services. It also involves everything in coordination in the organization, which includes how information is collected, how order is taken, app use, with that strictly following and implementing the quality standards.
Culture The Dabbawalas do not work in a full formal uniform like any other service form would have. Instead they have a full white kurta pajama with a traditional Gandhi cap (topi). 
Dabbawala Operating Model Aspects

The above four principles are core elements of the Dabbawala Service, which has been crucial for the business which has been opening for many years now. 

(B.1) How Did the Idea of Dabbawala Originated? 

Around 130 years ago, a Parsi Banker working in Fort Branch only wanted to have his home cooked meal in his office. For that he hired a young man named Mahadeo Havaji Bacche, who would daily get his lunch from his home in the afternoon.

That is how the concept and the first dabbawala emerged. 

Concept of Mumbai Dabbawala

With time, with the vision and hard work of Mahadeo Havaji Bacche, the business started growing and thriving in the city and has a large workforce to operate. 

(B.2) How did this business become an exception?

  • The dabbawala service delivers over 2,00,000 tiffins on a daily basis from their homes or dabba service to their offices. 
  • It delivers all its services and transactions in almost 6 hours, six days a week, before lunch time, without any mistakes.
  • All this success has been achieved by Dabbawalas without the intervention of any technological tool at low cost and in an eco-friendly manner.
  • Later on, they have made their own app for catering to more people and offering more services. 

Mumbai Dabbawala business

  • It has been awarded with the title of “ Six Sigma” from the study conducted by the Harvard Business School, which means that the dabbawalas made less than 3.4 errors per million transactions.
  • Mumbai Dabbawalas have employed around 5,000 people for delivering its services, and many of them are less educated, or have not appropriate reading knowledge, but they operate efficiently and provide their best services. 
  • A force of hardworking people has led them to achieve this success and become a prominent name all over the world. 
  • The Mumbai Dabbawalas were also visited by Mr. Richard Branson, a british entrepreneur and adventurer and Prince Charles during his visit to India.

(B.3) Major Events of Mumbai Dabbawalas 

Event  Description 
In 1956A charitable trust was registered under the name of Nutan Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. 
In 1968 The commercial arm of the trust was registered in 1968 as Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. 
In October 2020The official website of Dabbawala was launched as digitaldabbawala.com. 
In November 2020Dabbawala launched their app, which helped them in making food delivery simple and easy. Also started monthly annual subscription payment through their site. 
In August 2021The dabbawalas launched their own digital operation platform known as Central Kitchen, which lets customers place their orders from a wide variety of food options for delivery.
Mumbai Dabbawala Major Events

(C) Marketing Mix Strategy 

One of the key factors of Dabbawala case study is the marketing mix which it has been following for years. The dabbawala operates on 6 P’s of marketing mix, which is Product, Place, Price, Promotion, and People. 

(C.1) Product 

The primary service of the Dabbawala is to provide the freshly home cooked meal lunch boxes from the customer’s home and deliver them at their offices. Along with that they also collect their tiffin boxes after lunch and deliver them back to their home. 

With that they also offer advertising facilities with them, workshops, seminars, and more of it. 

(C.2) Place

Mumbai Dabbawala, an Indian business organization, primarily operates its services in Mumbai. The dabbawalas also take their service orders through SMSs. It has a wide distribution network and a workforce of nearly 5,000 workers.


Dabbawala services

(C.3) Price 

Mumbai Dabbawala has a turnover of around Rs.36 crores annually, and its services cost within a range of Rs.300 to 1,000.  The affordable pricing for its services, the annual subscription model for payments, the uniform pricing strategy, no hidden costs, all contribute to an easy marketing mix. 

(C.4) Promotion 

The organization that has been operating from decades now has been well famous and a prominent name in the city Mumbai. They have mostly adopted the mouth publicity for their business.

They rely on their exceptional service model and quality assurance of operations. Many production houses, companies, promote their messages and movies through dabbawala. 

(C.5) People 

The success and growth of Mumbai Dabbawala largely depends on the people it serves. They are the backbone and the key elements of the entire operation of Dabbawalas. The business has high skilled workers, teamwork, coordination, training, and has good customer relations. 

(D) Unique Coding System 

Instead of putting names for different stations, tiffin deliveries, office place, etc. they have a unique full proof coding system of delivering dabbas. Some of them are- 

Code name Meaning 
E (in green color)Area collected from within Vile Parle (E means Hanuman Road).
VLP (in green color)Means Vile Parle Station. 
3 (in green color)3 means Church Gate 
9 AI 12 (in red color)9 means – Area to be delivered within the church gate (Nariman Point).
AI means – Building to be delivered within Nariman Point which is the Air India Building. 
12 means – Floor to be delivered within the Air India building. 
Coding System Of Dabbawala

Let’s have a look at the other factors constituting the Mumbai Dabbawala case study!

(E) Other Factors Analysis 

Factors Explanation 
Collection of meals The Dabbawalas collect the freshly prepared home cooked meals either from customers home or from the dabba service center and deliver them at their offices or other workplaces before lunchtime. 
Sorting of lunch boxes  After collecting lunch boxes, they are then taken to the sorting place, where they are sorted based on the destination to be delivered. Each lunch box has a distinct code, numbers, and alphabets which indicates its destination of delivery. 
Transportation of boxes After collecting, sorting the lunch boxes, they are then transported through different means, i.e. bicycles, trains, by walk, etc. 
Delivery of the meal The lunch boxes after reaching the desired destination, the boxes are then again sorted based on the building number, floor, office, etc. which are taken and delivered by another set of dabbawalas to its appropriate consumer. 
Return of the lunch boxes The dabbawalas not only deliver the lunch boxes to the consumers but also provide post lunch services. In which the lunch boxes are collected and sent back to their respective houses. 
Coding systemOne of the most unique features of this Dabbawala service is their coding system. They use a mix of alphabets, numbers, colors, colors, which indicates various aspects like owner household source, destination, and ensuring each tiffin reaches the right destination. 
Teamwork The dabbawalas work in right coordination and great teamwork which helps them in delivering their services at the right place and in right time. Each member proves its accountability and commitment to the service. 
Other Factor Analysis

Above were some other factors which contributed to its growth and overall success over the years. It’s a mix of its teamwork, coordination, delivery systems, returning facility, coding system. 

Over the years, the Mumbai Dabbawala has kept their services simple and unique. With time they have developed their own app and site which has helped to connect to more customers and make a more simplified process. 

Summing Up: The Dabbawala Case Study

The Mumbai Dabbawala Service, one of the most famous things of Mumbai. The dabbawala service that has been operating and providing its best services to the people since 1890, is one of most anticipated case studies to look at. 

Note: We do have case studies of other famous names like

Be it providing the on time tiffin delivery service, doing seminars, unique coding system of tiffin’s, exceptional service over the years, delivering ted talks, etc. all constitute as the major key elements of the dabbawala case study. 

Mumbai Dabbawala service believes in the simple working techniques which offers high quality in low prices. 

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Published By: Aashita Singh
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Nidhi Sinha
Nidhi Sinha
17 days ago

Apart from being many tiffin services available, this Dabbawala service still remains everyones favourite and on top. Have been using this service from a long time now!