Google+ Consumer Psyche: The death of 'Mumbai Dabbawalas'

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

The death of 'Mumbai Dabbawalas'


All the hype of the 'Six Sigma' certification does not ensure the Dabbawalas will continue to stay in business for ever. For all I know unless a swift, corrective, evolutionary action its death knell for them. Here is why I feel so.

  • The target market for the Dabbawalas was the government people, elderly and low or middle earning group who believe in the family values but they no longer staff the modern offices. People now earn almost 4 to 5 times the salary their parents do and have office canteens to eat from. Canteen facilities are now part of the corporate policy and the food costs as cheap as Rs. 15/- which makes it to Rs.450/- per month

  • The upcoming companies work round the clock and difference in the timings, shifts, age group of the employees, choice of the food, urge to get out of office for lunch and so on drives the people to opt away from family food

  • Increase in the disposable income, availability of options, need for freedom and choice make people eat outside

  • The hype of 'Six Sigma' certification and all the media coverage puts a lot of pressure on the Dabbawalas which would result in high stress levels. I have another problem with the 'Six Sigma' certification. Forbes did it but what was the duration of the study, what is defined as an error, how was it measured and so on

  • Each Dabbawala earns about 12K per month which is very low and the tribe is dying. The average age is increasing and the number of the new Dabbawalas joining the group is less. The risk of unemployment is high and alternate jobs are more as the education levels and IQ levels are high from the older generation


Then if everything goes against the Dabbawalas is there a way out, to survive. I think yes. Let’s see what are the options.

  • Increase the range of services from mere Dabbas to offices and schools to other areas like money-to-home, dabbas-to-hospitals, insurance, etc.
  • 2,00,000 customers in a city like Mumbai with over 2 crores population is very less. The base can be easily raised to almost 10 lakh. This needs a lot of work in terms of infrastructure, people, training, costs and so on
  • Use more technology, resources, referrals to strengthen the existing base, promotional activities to increase loyalty and thwarting competition

So I feel unless the Dabbawalas act and act fast, smart I can hear their coffin being made. What do you say?

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