This study provides an in-depth review of the dabbawala organization and provides an analysis of how their practices affect their organizational prosperity. After identifying their success factors, I also outlined challenges they were facing due to a lack of technology integration in their supply chain. The dabbawala organization provides a wealth of knowledge in regards to organizational structure, organizational practices, and employee motivation. Additionally, the recommendations found in this study can be used to improve supply chains in other industries. State and municipal governments can also utilize this information to recommend healthier food alternatives for their citizens.
This study also provides a foundation for the dabbawalas to ask for government aid in expanding their operations. Increased educational attainment and organizational expansion to other areas would help to reduce unemployment and poverty in the rural areas as the dabbawalas earn an above average salary for what are essentially menial tasks. The main reason for the dabbawalas’ stagnation is employee homogeneity where all workers share the same culture, religion, and skills. The government can help in the expansion through providing subsidized training for the dabbawalas members where interested parties would receive training on auxiliary skills such as accounting, and management. Over time, such skills would improve organizational performance, as it would result in a diversified workplace.
One of the main limitations of this study is the lack of quantitative data on the dabbawala organization. This study paves the way for future research that would provide empirical evidence on how changes in the dabbawala’s operations are likely to affect their overall profitability and growth. Researchers with sufficient funding can undertake a long-term quantitative study of the dabbawalas, which would provide definitive statistics about their performance.
The dabbawalas are a good example of an efficient supply chain and logistics systems. While they are mostly illiterate employees who are also partners they have managed to maintain a six-sigma rating for over a century with less than one mistake per six million deliveries. This thesis explored the dabbawala organization to determine the factors that have led to their long-term success. Additionally, it also conducted an environment analysis to determine what factors have led to the dabbawala’s recent stagnation in revenues and client base. Due to time and financial limitations, the research followed a case study methodology where I conducted a meta-analysis of the available body of knowledge on the dabbawalas and organizational theory in order to answer the research questions. The literature was drawn from scholarly databases such as Google scholar, ProQuest, and Jstor that all provide peer-reviewed material.
The results of the analysis showed three major findings. First, the dabbawala’s success lies in the cultural significance of their service. The dabbawalas provide home cooked food to workers in metropolitan Mumbai, which is a melting pot of many cultures with each culture having its own culinary preferences. Additionally, employee dedication and sense of organizational community have also helped in maintaining the six-sigma service levels. Having employees as partners in the business increases their dedication towards achieving organizational objectives as the end-month salary is dependent on the efforts of every individual in the team. Additionally, their practice of hiring based on recommendations from existing members means that all employees have a similar culture and code of conduct thus easing managerial duties and increasing efficiency.
The second finding is that while the dabbawala’s practices have facilitated their success, they have also hindered their potential expansion to other regions where their services may be needed. Increased employee homogeneity results in decreased organizational innovation that is the current scenario with the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. They have focused their hiring on the originating villages of existing members who have low educational attainments thus limiting their diversification into other auxiliary fields such as management and accounting. This has also limited their potential to adapt to a changing business environment.
The analysis above suggests four recommendations. First, the dabbawalas should work to increase the general educational attainment of their members. This can be done through additional training programs that would teach them additional skills such as management and accounting. An increase in education would also help in acquiring additional skills that would be beneficial to the organization such as technology use. On a broader scale, an increase in education would also help in reducing the poverty levels in the country, as the current generation of dabbawalas would then have an opportunity to improve the education of their relatives in the villages, which is a more sustainable approach to poverty reduction as compared to simply giving employment. Learning additional skills would also help the dabbawalas in
Secondly, the dabbawalas should also change their hiring practices to reflect the changing times. Traditionally, the dabbawalas have mainly recruited from the region of Pune whose main residents are subsistence farmers. Since this region is characterized by above average poverty levels, children have limited funding to pursue their studies and becoming dabbawalas for an average monthly salary of Rs 5000-8000. While most of the dabbawalas choose to send a lion’s share back home, it does not offer a sustainable solution to reduce poverty levels in the country. Simply getting employment and sending funds back home has created a cycle of low education levels and poverty levels that are tough to break resulting in a large workforce of semi-literate workers who have limited employment opportunities in the city. Changing their hiring practices would help in exposing the organization to new ideas while also gaining a more diverse skillset.
A change in managerial attitude is necessary in order for the dabbawala to implement the recommended changes. As past research shows, the managerial attitude has the greatest influence on the employee expectations and code of conduct. Currently, the dabbawala’s President, Mr. Medge, sees no need for employee diversification or a change in organizational strategy and thus, this is the commonly accepted attitude among the employees. However, it has stagnated their operations, as the dabbawalas are currently unable to significantly increase their client base, which has also resulted in a relatively unchanging workforce. Therefore, changing the managerial attitude is necessary for spurring a change among the employees.
The fourth recommendation is towards the government, who can collaborate with the dabbawala organization to reduce unemployment and poverty levels while also providing healthier alternatives for city workers. The government can aid the dabbawala organization in expanding their operations to other cities through providing educational opportunities and providing reliable transport infrastructure. As shown from the analysis above, the major strength of the dabbawala organization is the extensive railway infrastructure that provides a low-cost solution to freight transportation. Without this railway system, they would incur similar costs to other food distribution systems such as McDonalds. Therefore, for effective and rapid expansion to other cities, the government can aid through providing reliable freight transport infrastructure.
The fifth recommendation is towards researchers who will conduct future studies on the dabbawalas. During the course of this research, I mainly utilized qualitative data from prior case studies on the dabbawala due to time and financial limitations. Therefore, future researchers with adequate resources should conduct intensive quantitative studies that would help in providing definitive statistics about the dabbawala organization.
Baindur, D., & Macário, R. M. (2013). Mumbai lunch box delivery system: A transferable benchmark in urban logistics? Research in transportation economics, 38(1), 110-121. DOI: 10.1016/j.retrec.2012.06.008
Bañuelas, R., & Antony, J. (2003). Going from six sigma to design for six sigma: an exploratory study using analytic hierarchy process. The TQM Magazine, 15(5), 334-344. Doi: 10.1108/09544780310487730
Bartlett, P. A., Julien, D. M., & Baines, T. S. (2007). Improving supply chain performance through improved visibility. The International Journal of Logistics Management, 18(2), 294-313. DOI: 10.1108/09574090710816986
Benn, S., Dunphy, D., & Griffiths, A. (2014). Organizational change for corporate sustainability: Routledge. ISBN-13: 978-0415393300
Ben-Ner, A. (2013). Preferences and organization structure: Toward behavioral economics micro-foundations of organizational analysis. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 46, 87-96. DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2013.08.003
Booth, A., Sutton, A., & Papaioannou, D. (2016). Systematic approaches to a successful literature review: Sage. ISBN: 9780857021359
Bresman, H., & Zellmer-Bruhn, M. (2013). The structural context of team learning: Effects of organizational and team structure on internal and external learning. Organization Science, 24(4), 1120-1139. Doi:
Burns, T., & Stalker, G. (1961). The management of innovation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship. ISBN: 9780198288787
Carmeli, A., & Gittell, J. H. (2009). Highquality relationships, psychological safety, and learning from failures in work organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(6), 709-729. doi = "10.1002/job.565
Chakraborty, A., & Hargude, A. N. (2015). Dabbawala: Introducing Technology to the Dabbawalas of Mumbai. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services Adjunct. ISBN 978-1-4503-3653-6
Chandler, A. D. (1990). Strategy and structure: Chapters in the history of the American industrial enterprise. Frederick, MD: Beard Books. ISBN-13: 978-1587981982
Christopher, M. (2016). Logistics & supply chain management: Pearson Higher Ed. ISBN: 9780273731122
Collis, J., & Hussey, R. (2013). Business research: A practical guide for undergraduate and postgraduate students: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: 8601200485219
Cronin, C. (2014). Using case study research as a rigorous form of inquiry. Nurse Researcher, 21(5), 19-27.
Csaszar, F. A. (2012). Organizational structure as a determinant of performance: Evidence from mutual funds. Strategic Management Journal, 33(6), 611-632. doi:10.1002/smj.1969
Daft, R. (2012). Organization theory and design: Nelson Education. ISBN 13: 9781111221294
De Clercq, D., Dimov, D., & Thongpapanl, N. T. (2013). Organizational social capital, formalization, and internal knowledge sharing in entrepreneurial orientation formation. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 37(3), 505-537. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1111/etap.12021
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. (2000). Qualitative research. Thousand Oaks ua, 413-427. ISBN-13: 978-0761915126
Dimmock, C., & Lam, M. (2012). Grounded theory research. Research Methods in Educational Leadership and Management, 188. ISBN: 9781446200438
Erwin, P. M. (2011). Corporate codes of conduct: The effects of code content and quality on ethical performance. Journal of Business Ethics, 99(4), 535-548. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0667-y.
FinfgeldConnett, D., & Johnson, E. D. (2013). Literature search strategies for conducting knowledgebuilding and theorygenerating qualitative systematic reviews. Journal of advanced nursing, 69(1), 194-204. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06037.x
Fink, A. (2013). Conducting research literature reviews: from the Internet to paper. Sage Publications. ISBN-13: 978-1452259499
Foss, N. J., Lyngsie, J., & Zahra, S. A. (2013). The role of external knowledge sources and organizational design in the process of opportunity exploitation. Strategic Management Journal, 34(12), 1453-1471. doi = 10.1002/smj.2135
Fugate, B. S., Mentzer, J. T., & Stank, T. P. (2010). Logistics performance: efficiency, effectiveness, and differentiation. Journal of Business Logistics, 31(1), 43-62. DOI: 10.1002/j.2158-1592.2010.tb00127.x
Goetsch, D. L., & Davis, S. B. (2014). Quality management for organizational excellence: Pearson. ISBN: 9780132558983
Greenberg, J., & Baron, R. A. (2011). Behavior in organizations: Pearson London. ISBN-13: 978-0131542846
Harper, C. (2015). Organizations: Structures, processes, and outcomes: Routledge. ISBN-13: 978-0132448406
Hull, F., & Hage, J. (1982). Organizing for innovation: Beyond Burns and Stalker's organic type. Sociology, 16(4), 564-577. doi: 10.1177/0038038582016004006
Keiningham, T., Gupta, S., Aksoy, L., & Buoye, A. (2014). The high price of customer satisfaction. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55(3), 37.
Kennedy, M. T., & Fiss, P. C. (2013). An ontological turn in categories research: From standards of legitimacy to evidence of actuality. Journal of Management Studies, 50(6), 1138-1154. doi: 10.1111/joms.12031
Kuprenas, J. A. (2003). Implementation and performance of a matrix organization structure. International Journal of Project Management, 21(1), 51-62.
Langley, A., Smallman, C., Tsoukas, H., & Van de Ven, A. H. (2013). Process studies of change in organization and management: unveiling temporality, activity, and flow. Academy of Management Journal, 56(1), 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amj.2013.4001
Lewis, S. (2015). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Health promotion practice, 1524839915580941. ISBN-13: 978-1412995306
Likert, R. New Patterns of management, New York (McGraw-Hill Book Company) 1961. ISBN-13: 978-0070378506
LRN. (2006) The Impact of codes of conduct on corporate culture. Retrieved from http://www.ethics.org/files/u5/LRNImpactofCodesofConduct.pdf
Lunenburg, F. C. (2012). Organizational structure: Mintzberg’s framework. International journal of scholarly, academic, intellectual diversity, 14(1), 1-8.
Mallik, U., & Mukherjee, D. (2007). Sigma 6 Dabbawalas of Mumbai and their Operations Management-An Analysis. MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTANT-CALCUTTA-, 42(5), 386.
Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (2014). Designing qualitative research. Sage publications. ISBN: 978-1452271002
Matani, D. A., Tripathi, M., Doifode, D. S., & Gowardhan, S. (2015). Green Supply Chain Management in Food Industries. Int. J. of Engineering and Technical Research (IJETR), 3(7), 261-263. ISSN: 2321-0869
Ménard, C. (2004). The economics of hybrid organizations. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics JITE, 160(3), 345-376. DOI: 10.1628/0932456041960605
Menon, S. (2016). Why has an Indian state imposed a 'fat tax'? - BBC News. BBC News. Retrieved 30 August 2016, from
Mi Dahlgaard Park, S., & Näslund, D. (2013). Lean and six sigma-critical success factors revisited. International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, 5(1), 86-100.
Miles, R. E., Snow, C. C., Meyer, A. D., & Coleman, H. J. (2011). Organizational strategy, structure, and process. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Mishraand, B., & Dwivedi, S. (2013). SUCCESS STORY OF Mc. D IN INDIA: STORY OF IT’S STRUGGLE IN INDIAN MARKET. Asian Journal of Science and Technology, 4(07), 066-070. ISSN: 0976-3376
Nelson, D. B., & Quick, J. C. (2007). Understanding organizational behavior. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. ISBN-13: 978-0324423020
Ng, M., Fleming, T., Robinson, M., Thomson, B., Graetz, N., Margono, C., . . . Abera, S. F. (2014). Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet, 384(9945), 766-781. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60460-8
Oliveira, N. (2011). Automated organizations: Development and structure of the modern business firm: Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-3-7908-2759-0
Parrotta, P., Pozzoli, D., & Pytlikova, M. (2014). The nexus between labor diversity and firm’s innovation. Journal of Population Economics, 27(2), 303-364. Doi: 10.1007/s00148-013-0491-7
Pathak, G. S. (2010). Delivering the Nation: The Dabbawalas of Mumbai. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 33(2), 235-257. ISSN: 0085-6401
Percot, M. (2005). Dabbawalas, tiffin carriers of Mumbai: answering a need for specific catering.
Podsiadlowski, A., Gröschke, D., Kogler, M., Springer, C., & Van Der Zee, K. (2013). Managing a culturally diverse workforce: Diversity perspectives in organizations. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 37(2), 159-175. Doi:
Pradeepa, R., Anjana, R. M., Joshi, S. R., Bhansali, A., Deepa, M., Joshi, P. P., . . . Geetha, L. (2015). Prevalence of generalized & abdominal obesity in urban & rural India-the ICMR-INDIAB Study (Phase-I)[ICMR-INDIAB-3]. The Indian journal of medical research, 142(2), 139. doi: 10.4103/0971-5916.164234
Pyzdek, T., & Keller, P. A. (2014). The six sigma handbook: McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN-13: 978-0071840538
Raste, A. (2016). Spirituality at the Bottom of the Pyramid Ethical Leadership (pp. 255-260): Springer. Doi: 10.1057/978-1-137-60194-0_14
Ravichandran, N. (2005). World Class Logistics Operations: The Case of Bombay Dabbawallahs: Indian Institute of Management.
Reichertz, J. (2013). Induction, Deduction. The Sage handbook of qualitative data analysis, 123. DOI:
Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C. M., & Ormston, R. (2013). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers: Sage. ISBN-10: 1446209121
Roncaglia, S. (2013). Feeding the City: Work and Food Culture of the Mumbai Dabbawalas. Open Book Publishers. ISBN: 9781909254008
Rowley, B., & McMurtrey, M. E. (2016). McDonald's and the Triple Bottom Line: A Case Study of Corporate Sustainability. Journal of Strategic Innovation and Sustainability, 11(1), 33.
Sapovadia, V. K. (2016). Empower Workers to Innovate and Entrepreneurship: Raison d'être of Successful Workers Cooperatives. Available at SSRN 2713429.
Scott, W. R. (2013). Institutions and organizations: Ideas, interests, and identities: Sage Publications. ISBN-13: 978-1452242224
Seshadri, S., & Gachibowli, A. P. (2014). Are flatter organizations more innovative? Hierarchical depth and the importance of ideas.
Sharma, A. (2015). Driving Business Impact for Key Customers. Paper presented at the Six Sigma Forum Magazine.
Sinha, M., & Stefan, T. H. (2010). “The Dabbawala System: On Time Delivery, Every Time,” HBS Case 9-610-059. Harvard Business Review.
Smith, J. A. (2015). Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods: Sage. ISBN: 9781446298466
Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory: Sage Publications, Inc. ISBN-13: 978-1412906449
Tucci, C., Seshadri, S., & Shapira, Z. (2008). Are flatter organizations more innovative? Hierarchical depth and the importance of ideas.
Tuohy, D., Cooney, A., Dowling, M., Murphy, K., & Sixsmith, J. (2013). An overview of interpretive phenomenology as a research methodology. Nurse Researcher, 20(6), 17-20.
Tyagi, S., Sukhadeve, R. B., Parchake, M. B., & Pathak, H. M. (2015). Mumbai Local: Life Line or Life Stealing. Journal of Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine, 37(3), 246-249.
Vaismoradi, M., Turunen, H., & Bondas, T. (2013). Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. Nursing & health sciences, 15(3), 398-405. doi: 10.1111/nhs.12048
Vignali, C. (2001). McDonald's:“think global, act local”-the marketing mix. British Food Journal, 103(2), 97-111. DOI: 10.1108/00070700110383154
Weber, M. (1946). Bureaucracy. From Max Weber: essays in sociology, 196, 232-235. ISBN-13: 978-0195004625
Weber, M. (2015). On the methodology of the social sciences: Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN-13: 978-1412813198
Wheelen, T. L., & Hunger, J. D. (2011). Concepts in strategic management and business policy. Pearson Education India. ISBN13: 9780132153355
Yin, R. K. (2015). Qualitative research from start to finish: Guilford Publications. ISBN: 9781462517978
Cite this page
In-depth Review of the Dabbawala Organization. (2017, Nov 17). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/in-depth-review-of-the-dabbawala-organization
If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal: