For those of you who are 20-something, I’m going to take a wild guess that you are probably pretty acquainted with, and perhaps even on first name basis with, the guys that run the fast food chains closest to your office. And hey, no one’s judging you — on busy work days, In-N-Out drive-through is the ideal solution to satisfy your hunger needs.
But let’s all be real here — not even the juiciest of bacon cheese hamburgers will ever match up to Mom’s homemade fried rice, with just the perfect ratio of rice, meat, eggs, green onions and spices. Oh, look at that, I’m already drooling.
Some 500,000 Indian men from Mumbai, who are nicknamed the “dabbawalas,” came up with a brilliant solution so that hard workers in the city could both save the money they would have spent on eating out and have home cooked meals made by their loving wives or mothers — delivered straight to their schools and offices.
Of course, this delivery service comes with a price for the dabbawalas. Every morning, these half a million men first travel house-to-house to pick up the steaming hot tiffins (tins that store the food), which they then transport all over the city on their bikes, through the blazing heat and maddening traffic. Collectively, they pick up and deliver around 200,000 meals a day.
With so many different moving parts involved in this system, it can get pretty messy. So along with all the food, the families and the delivery people, there is also a code system. By now, the dabbawalas say they have it all imprinted in their minds, so they know the exact location of where each tiffin goes.
According to NBC, their system is so efficient that they have a “six sigma level of efficiency,” equating to “making one mistake per every six million deliveries.” Even with odds like that though, the dabbawalas have admitted that there have been mistakes where tiffins were given to the wrong people who sometimes lack the courtesy and eat the home cooked meal given to them anyway.
Despite all the hurdles these men jump through on a day-to-day basis, Pawan Agarwal, head of the Mumbai Dabbawala, said of his colleagues, “It’s hard work, no doubt about it … But they feel that serving food is serving God so they feel happy to do this business.”
Another dabbawala worker also spoke up on how their business remains so successful. “Many people in this city prefer their lunch fresh, prepared lovingly by their wives or mothers,” he said, adding that despite the many restaurants cropping up all over the city, the business has been continuing to grow 5 to 10 percent every year.
Take that, McDonald’s.