The Power of Process & Culture


Mumbai Dabbawala

As a leader, I am always a process improvement enthusiast. I strongly believe that leaders must continuously look for ways and means to improve the organization’s processes. Leadership commitment and support are critical for successful process improvement initiatives in any company. I also strongly believe that organizations don’t need extraordinary talent to achieve extraordinary performance when the right system is in place.

For some time, I am researching a quintessential and ingenious Indian jugaad called Mumbai Dabbawalas and the leadership lessons that one can learn from them for one of the chapter in my next book. The wonders created by a semiliterate 130-year old Indian team of 5000 members called Mumbai Dabbawalas, backed up by a well-defined process and work culture of service excellence mindset, is mind-boggling and fascinates the world.

With the popularity of mobile apps such as Swiggy, Zomato and Uber Eats, many cities in India and the rest of the world now started enjoying the privilege of ordering specially prepared food being delivered either directly at their home doorstep or the work desk.  But dabbawalas have been doing it for 130 years – and the newcomers have much to learn. Also, the new-age digital rivals couldn’t match the low-cost and high-performance service provided by dabbawalas. By far, the Mumbai Dabbawala Association is one of the best case studies of Six Sigma and ISO 9001:2000 certified, process-driven, error-free, low-investment business from India.

Their mastery of supply chain management in the world’s 4th most populous city with a jaw-dropping accuracy level without using technology and the complexity of the process by which 200,000 plus tiffin boxes (800000 transactions) were sorted, transported, delivered, and returned each day by people who were mostly illiterate in a white outfit and traditional Gandhi cap with a zero percent error rate are mind-blowing. I am looking forward to sharing my leadership learnings from this team with you all soon.

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