If you have ever stepped into a local train in Mumbai, chances are you will have noticed at least once the ubiquitous white dressed man with a Gandhi cap holding a bundle of tiffin boxes. Mumbai’s Dabbawalas are to the city what water is to humans; without them, the city would have died of hunger long ago. The Dabbawalas coupled with Mumbai’s intricate, chaotic train system, are the masters of precision that people seldom talk about. 

But there have been several new players on the street since, of course. With the advent of food delivery businesses and delivery fulfillment companies, the future of the dabbawalas begs to be questioned. One of India’s biggest food aggregator brands currently has a 60% market stake in the food delivery sector with over 2 million orders a day throughout the country. And these brands are slowly inching into retail as well. 

So what differentiates the humble dabbawala from a food delivery business

As The Clock Ticks:
If you’ve read about Dabbawalas anywhere, you’ll know that their biggest USP is the fact that they are always on time, regardless of weather, traffic or any other constraint. Since 1890, dabbawalas and the mumbai local trains have worked in unspoken unison to deliver food on time to hungry workers. It is their unfailing quality of service with a 0.99% error rate, and their prowess for developing a quality business model that awarded them the Six-Sigma certification.
Food delivery businesses, on the other hand, have time constraints to deal with since they do not possess as polished a system as the Dabbawalas. Since these businesses are also more scattered throughout with no collection points or rendezvous points for delivery, they are typically less efficient. 

Spoilt For Choice:

The main difference between the service of the dabbawalas and a food delivery business is that a dabbawala will never prepare the food and is merely a logistical support for the residents of Mumbai. They are also strictly time based and do not operate at odd hours or on special needs, unless told days in advance. Only in recent times have the dabbawalas started their own food service by offering simple vegetarian food to customers. 

On the other hand, food delivery businesses operate throughout the city till late hours, and offer a wider selection of foods, often with discounts. They also expand quite rapidly and, as previously mentioned, are moving into retail sectors. And something that the dabbawalas lack as of now is this option to avail services at the tip of a finger. 

Consistency vs quantity: 

In the end, while it may seem like the dabbawalas may not hold their own, there is yet some hope for them for their impeccable attention to detail, highest standards of service and perhaps a potential joint venture with food delivery businesses, so that customers experience the best of both worlds.

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Mumbai Dabbawala Photo By – wikimedia.org