Ask for the Dabbawalla When You Book Mumbai Hotels

The legend of the Dabbawalla of Mumbai is as old as the city itself. A 127 year old industry which is still growing at a rate of 5% per annum; a management marvel that B-schools around the world have incorporated into their syllabuses; and were one of the invitees in the Charles-Camilla wedding. If there was ever a better example of supply chain management, corporate schools know nothing about it. So while you book hotels in Mumbai for your next trip to “India’s own New York”, ask for the Mumbai Dabbawalla. Here’s a little more about the phenomenon that Dabbawallas in Mumbai are.




The concept of Dabbawala was incepted around 1880s during British Raj when commissioned officers were brought home cooked food by their Indian servants for token amounts. In contemporary times, as population and, subsequently, demand have grown, the Dabbawala association has become even more efficient and military like in its working. The hierarchy is divided and each level has a unique functionality. A collecting dabbawala collects dabbas ferries the tiffins between the worker and the dabba makers. As many of the carriers are illiterate, the dabbas have some sort of distinguishing mark on them, such as a colour or group of symbols.

The dabbawala then takes them to a designated sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort (and sometimes bundle) the lunch boxes into groups. The grouped boxes are put in the coaches of trains, with markings to identify the destination of the box (usually there is a designated car for the boxes). The markings include the rail station to unload the boxes and the building address where the box has to be delivered.
At each station, boxes are handed over to a local dabbawala, who delivers them. The empty boxes, after lunch, are again collected and sent back to the respective houses.
Fascinating, isn’t it? So you may book Mumbai hotels and admire the Marine Drive or the imposing Gateway of India. But Mumbai’s dabbalawas will always be its lifeline.



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