Teaching Note | HBS Case Collection | October 2012 (Revised September 2013)

The Dabbawala System: On-Time Delivery, Every Time

by Stefan H. Thomke

Abstract

The Mumbai-based dabbawalas are a 5,000 or so person organization that achieves exceptional service performance with a semi-literate workforce. Every working day, they deliver and return about 130,000 lunchboxes to offices throughout Mumbai. This entails more than 260,000 transactions within six hours each day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year (minus holidays) and mistakes are extremely rare. The case explores all aspects of their system (mission, information management, material flows, human resource system, processes, etc.) and the challenges that the dabbawala organization faces in a rapidly changing environment.

Keywords: systems design; organization design; service; Mumbai; India;

Citation:

Thomke, Stefan H. "The Dabbawala System: On-Time Delivery, Every Time." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 613-062, October 2012. (Revised September 2013.)