Decoding the Mumbai Dabbawala’s Code

Mumbai Dabbawala’s make the world’s best food delivery system. This zero technology, zero fuel and six sigma rated system runs on a unique coding system. How did such a system come to be?
A hypothetical dabba travels from a house in Vila Parle to an office in Churchgate, to give you the coding details.

How does a zero technology, six sigma system come to be. Decoding the Mumbai Dabbawala’s code. Vaishali Verma infographic.
Decoding the Mumbai Dabbawala’s Code: By Vaishali Verma

This system has survived, ever since the British Rule to the era of Zomato and Swiggy. How can this beat all the odds is the question here. And more importantly, what can we learn from it.

Thinking Basic. (thinking by First Principle)
History had no examples to show them. There was no dabba delivery system that existed in the past. So they had to think from scratch or think basic. This is what is regarded as thinking by first principle. This is what visionaries do. They do not relate their thinking to something they already know. They reason it out for themselves.
Why should you think like this? Because thinking by first principles gives you true results. It is best to think about your situation from scratch and not to copy what someone did when in your shoes.
Elon Musk is highhandedly the best example.

Information Limitation.
The information given in the code just allows people to know enough about where to deliver the dabba, but it does not allow to show the full address. They do not need to. They have been running the same route for years.
We all operate in a visual world, how and what information is conveyed makes a huge difference. You may not want to clutter the lid and lead to a slow and possibly mistaken sorting process.
How often does this coding system fail? Just once in every 6 million tiffins delivered.

What if a few customers take more than 30 seconds to hand over the dabba? Any number of these delays could easily have a cascading effect on the other 1000′ deliveries. To stay on schedule, each group has 2 – 3 extra workers to help cover up. These are trained alongside other dabbawala’s across all roles – collecting, sorting, loading, delivering.
When political or natural disasters hit the city, this cross- training helps them survive.

With fast food chains and restraurants growing in the country’s commercial capital, the need for home cooked meal does not look lightly to fall. In fact they reported a steady rise of 5-10% year on year. How much better can that get?


Vaishali Written by:

Information Designer. Writer. Freelancer.

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