Feature2 » Mumbai Dabbawallas unfold wonders in Fujairah

Mumbai Dabbawallas unfold wonders in Fujairah

Wednesday 30 September 2015

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I was enthralled when I was informed that the Mumbai Dabbawallas will be in Fujairah. They are six sigma certified, ISO certified, most of them are illiterates and their error rate is almost zero.  The exhilaration has not waned even while I write these lines. Two gentlemen had come all the way to present an inspirational talk-show on September 21st at the Novotel Hotel. My fascination was the simplicity and humbleness of the presenters. 


Mr Raghunath Dhondiba Medage

Mr. Raghunath, the President of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier Charitable Trust, has been associated with the Dabbawala organization for the last 33 years. He has visited the UK, the USA, Nigeria, Holland, Malaysia and Bangladesh for various presentations. He has also had the privilege of being invited to attend Prince Charles’ wedding!


Mr. Arvind Talekar (the main speaker)

Mr. Arvind’s grandfather, Late Laxman Talekar joined the Dabbawala organization in 1920 and his father, Late Gangaram Talekar, was the General Secretary of the Dabbawala organization for almost 45 years. Mr. Arvind joined his father in 1965 after helping him in this business for 2 years during his college days. Several multinationals and numerous management institutes including the Project Management Institute have benefited from his key note addresses. You can listen to him @ TED Talk too!  Hitherto, Gulf Co-operative Council and Institute of Chartered Accountants of India Dubai Chapter invited Mr. Arvind whose presentations were of huge advantage to the professional and business communities in Dubai.


What do they actually do?   

Dabbawallas are a delivery system that collects hot food in lunch boxes from the residences of workers in the late morning, delivers the lunches to the workplace, predominantly using bicycles and railway trains, and returns the empty boxes to the worker’s residence the same afternoon. In Mumbai, most office workers prefer to eat home-cooked food in their workplace rather than eat outside at a food stand or at a local restaurant, usually for reasons of taste and hygiene.  That’s the concept.


Wonders Unfolded

It was a perfect evening with over 150 attendees from multifarious professions and businesses (a few students too) who were enthused by the wonders unfolded by these gentlemen. We learnt that 2015 was their quasquicentennial celebration year as the Dabbawallas had registered in 1956.   Total employees are around 5000 of which the illiterate (called Thumbs-Up Employees) are 3000. On every working day, 200000 customers are serviced within 3 hours! With the mantra - “Work is Worship” and without the technology that you and I have, the Mumbai Dabbawallas progress – their error rate is one in sixteen million - amazing isn’t it?    


What participants learnt from the Dabbawallas?  

Service before self. Hard work will reward.  Success is not the cup of tea of the rich and powerful only. Punctuality is the essence of business. 

Kamal Kumar, OOEH School

Be different, think different, innovate, manage time, be simple and be noble.  One need not be rich to help, All it takes is the initiative to take the first step.   

Vigneshwar Muthukumar, OOEH School 

An effective public speaker is one who shares his thoughts from his heart. 

A Toastmaster (name withheld on request)

Punctuality induces prestige.  Time can be managed without technology.  Dedication ensures smooth functioning.   

Gaurav Anand, St. Mary’s School

Simple codification, discipline and so systematic.   Hani Jose, St. Mary’s School

Internal control weaknesses in any organization can be eliminated by employing hard-working, honest, determined, dedicated, self-less, self-motivated, sincere and punctual staff.   

An Auditor (name withheld on request)

Human resources can be extensively used.   

Linu George, OOEH School

The human brain is the real super computer.  Business can be a successful one with no technology and no competitors!  Smooth and effective flow logic is the base to success.  Dedication and motivation comes from within and not to be searched anywhere else! 

Vaibhaav Srinath Dev, OOEH School

Not important to have a white collar job. Where there is a will, there is a way.  

Sibin C Varghese, St. Mary’s School

Education is not a barrier to passion.  Uneducated, hard-working and strike-free work force can perform stunningly! 

Akshit Sharma, OOEH School


Q & A slot

The interactive session delved on the Dabbawalla’s threats  and  difficulties , error-free  system, competition, hygiene, dependence on railways, staff and their children welfare and standardization of tiffin boxes.  The presenters, after a patient hearing, enhanced the querists’ knowledge and the audience’s understanding with vivid explanation.  Hats off, Mr. Arvind and Mr. Raghunath! (I was bewildered, every time they let a cat out of the bag, without any inhibitions!)  


Why Dabbawallas?

Crowe Horwath, Auditors and Business Advisors, having strong professional standing in Fujairah for the past 2 decades, intended to gift the people of Fujairah with yet another opportunity of inspiration. They are certain of “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be” as remarked by R.W. Emerson.  The Mumbai Dabbawallas were selected for their concept, system, effectiveness, punctuality, determination, service to community and dedication of their illiterate work-force.


MDabawallas2a gifGreat Support

The entirely free event was held under the distinguished patronage of the Fujairah Free Zone Authority.  It was a great privilege to have the honourable presence of the Director General, Mr. Sharief Habib Al Awadhi along with Mr. Ahmed Raqbani, the Chairman of the East Coast Group and Mr. Sohail Iqbal, the Chief Engineer of the Fujairah Municipality.  “With your prayers and blessings, another milestone could be attained by the Fujairah community. Thank you very much, Sirs.”


 MDabawallas3a gifGratitude to sponsors

The eminent sponsors of the experience were Sembcorp Gulf O&M Company Ltd., (represented by Mr. Abhay Arya, Plant Manager) and IL&FS Prime Terminals FZC (represented by Mr. Amit Datta, Chief Executive Officer), renowned entities and illustrious executives who believe that networking, talk-shows and Q&A sessions are a great godsend to the growth and success of the professional and business community in general.



All of it started well and ended well too.  There was a grand learning under the auspices of Crowe Horwath - Horwath MAK representatives Dr. Khalid Maniar (Founder and Group Managing Partner), Mr. James Mathew (Managing Director), Mr. Saad (Partner), Mr. Unnikrishnan (Partner) and Surya (Partner) along with executives and staff of their Fujairah Office.


Needless to say, the audience endowed the presenters with a standing ovation. 


Surya Narayanan Krishna Moorthy



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