March 30, 2008

Management MANTRAS from Dabbawalas

Being from Mumbai and having spent most of my time traveling in the local trains of Mumbai, life was always difficult. But even during these tough times, when there was so much crowd in the trains, you would always see Gandhi-Topi people also called Dabbawalas [or Tiffin Carriers ] , who are trying hard to serve food to their customers on time; or should I say give an On-Time Delivery biggrin

One of the most impressive things about them is the cycle that they use, the same old famous Hero Cycle and the same tradition still continues...nothing has changed yet their delivery-cycle still remains the same. If you check them out on any station, you can learn "Team Building Lessons" from them !!!.

So many dabbas taken everyday, yet very very few errors, this is the amazing story of "The Mumbai Dabbawalas" who have become a WORLDWIDE BRAND yet their work is not affected with the newly branded Image smile

While reading about them, there was an amazing presentation that came to my notice on their website....Yes, they are also changing with times, but the presentation titled "Management Lessons from Dabbawalas" would surely teach "Too much change is also bad" !!!

Management MANTRAS from Dabbawalas:

1. Keep the operational costs as low as possible.
2. Keep capital investments bare minimum.
3. Just serve your customer - nothing else.
4. Customer is not the Raja, but the Maharaja.
5. Complexity opposes compliance.
6. Never deviate from your core competency.
7. Don't be over dependent on technology [surely not applicable to a technology company] .
8. Flat organization, Fast decision making.
9. Co-operation inside, Competition outside.
10. Keep extras for Full Tolerance.
11. Commitment matters.
12. Keep the implication of failure.
13. Build your ideas around existing infrastructure.
14. Abandon bad customers.
15. Strike means suicide, labor means life.
16. Penalize employees for non-compliance.
17. Do not transfer your employees very often.
18. Keep your employees emotionally united.
19. High salary alone cannot retain employees.
20. Be humble and don't boast your success.

You can view the complete presentation from here

Three key LEARNINGS Dabbawalas:

1. Open Culture is the key:
When you come to work, you can have only two reactions - "Either you feel, you have come to a work (indicating you are bored with your work) or party(indicating you are enjoying your work) sad One of the key drivers to this is "Open Culture".Culture has become an integral part of any organization, try building it from day one !!!!
Gone are the days, when you can say that "I manage a team of XYZ people", now have to refine this statement to : "We are a team of XYZ people". Well it sounds the same, but the difference is huge !!!

2. Turn your Customers into Evangelists:
Even though there was not much money spent in their[Dabbawalas] marketing , they still managed to become a household name" and I am sure the first person who might have given the dabba had played a major part in this !!!
This customer was the one who acted as a evangelist for them so, create a long lasting impression from the beginning and soon your company would have a large no of evangelists !!!

3. Use the Keep It Simple Stupid[KISS] principle wherever possible:
Even though Dabbawalas don't use technology, they managed to clinch Six Sigma. 85% illiterate people, no technology yet so few errors !!! The answer is to ask the question : "Do we really need XYZ simply because others are using XYZ?".For example: If you are a startup, your main focus should be great software and not great office/furniture (which would follow soon after the success of your product/service).
So evaluation of an option becomes a key, so as the KISS principle says:
A very straightforward approach may seem less glamorous and less dramatic, but the trivial approach should indeed be taken. Surprisingly, the very obvious approach is often the best.
Do not miss to have a look at the various other articles on Dabbawalas Official Website

Other articles on Dabbawalas [covered on Thoughtsprevail]:

Dabbawalas, Building lasting success based on values
Dabbawalas - Straight from the Gut

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At Apr 1, 2008, 10:51:00 AM , Anonymous Shaji Jose said...

Hi Himanshu,

Dabbawalas were studied by Harward and oxford guys too.

SP Jose

At Apr 1, 2008, 3:33:00 PM , Blogger Himanshu Sheth said...

Hi Shaji,
Thanks for your comments...Yes,Dabbawalas have become a big brand name everywhere :)

These people are teaching management in a very efficient way !!!

-Himanshu Sheth


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