Dabbawala Case Study Iim Lucknow

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In 2003, Paul S. Goodman and Denise Rousseau, both faculty at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration of Carnegie Mellon University, made their first full-length documentary called 'The Dabbawallas'. According to the press release of the TV station presenting the documentary, "The film also serves as a counterpoint. Instead of asking how knowledge in developing countries can help less developed countries, this film focuses on how developed countries can learn from less developed countries".7

Back home, the Dabbawalas were invited to speak at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)8 meets and at leading Indian business schools such as IIM, Bangalore and Lucknow.

Background Note

The origin of the Dabbawalas' lunch delivery service dates back to the 1890s during the British raj.9 At that time, people from various communities migrated to Mumbai for work. As there were no canteens or fast food centers then, if working people did not bring their lunch from home, they had to go hungry and invariably, lunch would not be ready when they left home for work.

Besides, different communities had different tastes and preferences which could only be satisfied by a home-cooked meal. Recognizing the need, Mahadeo Havaji Bacche (Mahadeo), a migrant from North Maharashtra,10 started the lunch delivery service. For his enterprise, Mahadeo recruited youth from the villages neighboring Mumbai, who were involved in agricultural work. They were willing to come as the income they got from agriculture was not enough to support their large families, and they had no education or skills to get work in the city. The service started with about 100 Dabbawalas and cost the client Rs.2 a month. Gradually, the number of Dabbawalas increased and the service continued even though the founder was no more...


7]  'WQED Multimedia Pittsburgh presents Paul S. Goodman's documentary about the Dabbawallas of Mumbai, India', www.wqed.org

8]  CII is a not-for-profit and non-government organization established in 1895 by members of the Indian industry. They work with the government, companies and similar international organizations to facilitate the growth of industry in India. The CII has a membership of over 54,800 companies, both national and international. They have offices in India and overseas.

9]  British raj was what the British rule in India was called.

10]  Maharashtra is one of the states of India. Mumbai is the capital of the state.

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