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


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?


SkyLark said...

I get your point from the post, but let us consider the same old section of people who are still the target for these ppl (ppl from GOVT Offices).

There are many news bees joining into the GOVT Offices too esp in Mumbai area and so, there are more potential customers to the Dabba walas too.

Not only that, These guys do it to such perfection that there was never a delay or a misplacement of the boxes.

I second you on the expansion these guys have to make, but they still are in business for a long time, as long as there is this MIDDLE CLASS (this is a large % of ppl in Mumbai, so it would continue for long) sector in India.

See this blog for some more stats on the Dabba walas..

Swamynathan said...

Cool post - I would look at only replicating this business model in various forms of logistics that can be offered in the growing market for error free transactions...

Lifetsories said...

I agree to t5he reasons you have put forward that will end the business of Dabbawals.But taking into consideration their USP i.e "the home cook food",is not easy to defeat.
its easy to work upon and say about the food provided by multinationals but after a period of time one cannnot go for that food.

Unknown said...

Thanks Harsha, Swamynathan, Neha for the comments. Unless you reinvent you will be replaced.

sri said...

Boss at least do a bit of research properly before commenting........

The Six sigma is endorsed by Forbes magazine..."one mistake for every eight million deliveries constitutes Six Sigma quality standards".......not only that they are ISO certified group also.

Its a 125 year old group which makes new entrants to think thrice before they enter the market...this doesn't mean that they donot have competetion at all....major fast food chains etc are there competetiors...but "usp" is undefeated.

Even the low monthly charge gives them a cost advantage position. No one else can offer such services at that nominal cost. I am not sure but guess its around 300 INR.

I don't see any viable threat/substitute/alternate for home cooked food.

Only embracing technology will not give you advantage and actually speaking they have shown us a awesome alternative to any technology like RFID or barcode which are very expensive.

As of now as per your suggestion I donot think we need to introduce or explain who is dabbawala to india atleast mumbai..... i mean the name of the group is a self reference.

Hats off to dabbawala's.....

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hi Srikanth,

Thanks for the comment. Yes I checked and I know that Forbes did it.

I agree with you about the Dabbawalas being the best. I was giving the alternate extreme look at the issue. Its an effort to see the same case in fresh light. Is there a threat to them? If yes how do we fight it out?

Their USP is undefeated. As they say, "As long as there is love and affection in this world Dabbawalas continue to rule." Their name has become synonymous with Quality in India. Yes hats off to them! The price range is from Rs. 150 - Rs. 300 depending on the type of box, distance and so on.

Cheers! Keep commenting.