Heera Training & Management Consultants

eNewsletter May 2006

Dear Everyone,
Hi! And how are you all? April has been a busy month as I was having work from way up north in Alor Setar to right down south in Kucing, Sarawak. At the same time, I am pretty excited about May as I will be going to two major learning events i.e. the HRD congress in Jakarta from May 2nd to 3rd (where Tun Mahathir will be a key note speaker) and the International Convention of the American Society for Training and Development in Dallas, Texas from 8-11 May (where Jack Welch will be a key note speaker). I am excited as there will be lots to learn and new friends to make and lots of networking to do. Seeing some of the best speakers and trainers in the world will be an education by itself and will be an excellent way for me to carry out a reality check on myself by using them as benchmarks for my own personal development.

I came upon this article on dabbawallahs in the Straits Times, Singapore dated Feb 4, 2006 and I think there is much we can learn from a management perspective.   


In Mumbai, India, dabbawallahs are food deliverers who help feed office workers everyday by sending hot food in tiffin carriers to their office. They have received international acclaim for running an archaic but effective system of delivery that runs with almost no errors. Their system is so good that two of these illiterate dabbawallahs have been invited to teach precision management to more that 2,000 management executives from a steel plant in central India.

Forbes’s magazine has given their delivery management system a 6 Sigma performance rating of 99.99 per cent which is no more that one mistake in 10,000 food deliveries. More than 5,000 of these dabbawallahs deliver around 200,000 lunch boxes to offices across the city of Mumbai each day. In simple words, this means one error in six million transactions, a benchmark reserved for blue-chip companies like Motorola.

Management Learning Points

  • Good simple systems and process contribute greatly to increased efficiency and effectiveness. Review the systems and processes in your company. I am sure there are ways in which they can constantly be improved.
  • The human element is key in any effective process or system. The best systems can fail because the human element was negligent, unskilled, untrained, casual, careless or else slack.
  • Technology helps only if the human element is trained to use it to its full potential. How many of us have seen organizations buying state of the art technology and yet not improve systems and processes because of the failure of the human element. In the case of the dabbawallahs, no technology is used. It is the human element that makes the system accurate and effective.
  • The dabbawallahs not only have a good system, but importantly they are able to manage the system very well. I am most certain they also have their share of people on MCs and having accidents on their delivery rounds. In spite of this the system works very well because it is managed effectively.
  • Like the steel plant, we must always endeavor and be willing to learn, even from illiterate dabawallahs.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I do hope I have added a little bit more to your management knowledge. Until my next newsletter, please do take care.

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Heera Singh
Principal Consultant
HEERA Training and Management Consultancy
HP 0126083708