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Corporate Social Dabawalas! November 10, 2010

Posted by aglakadam in Fun Reading, Jara hut ke, Life and all, National Issues, Social Casue.
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Dabbawala’s are very famous, not just in Mumbai & India but across the world. When I say Dabbawala, I am sure you immediately start thinking of the dabbawala’s of Mumbai who have an impeccable record of delivering more than 200000 lunch (tiffin) boxes to the respective users everyday within a time frame of 3 hours from 11.30 am till 1.30 pm. Day on day for the last few decades the dabbawala’s have been demonstrating zero error in their services to an extent that they have been recognized as Six Sigma Performance! For those who are still not aware about all this I encourage you to just Google dabbawala and see the 29400 results!

As per Wikipedia the definition of dabbawala goes like this : A dabewala, also spelled as dabbawalla or dabbawallah, literally meaning person with a box, is a person in the Indian subcontinent, most commonly found in the cities of Mumbai and Karachi, who is employed in a unique service industry whose primary business is collecting the freshly cooked food in lunch boxes from the residences of the office workers (mostly in the suburbs), delivering it to their respective workplaces and returning back the empty boxes by using various modes of transport.

Friends, here in this writeup, I am not intending to poke my nose in the business of the dabbawala’s who every day crisscross Mumbai by about 60 kms in the locals trains. I however refer to those dabbawala’s who haven’t yet found space in the treasury of Google though they are rife almost in every city in India! Yes I have discovered a new breed of dabbawala’s in the corporate world. A breed with a variety so unique and hi profile that it may take Google years to get an insight into these dabbas. I take this opportunity to share my observations on these dabbawala’s in this write-up. This is a post deepawali discovery.

These real dabbawala’s are actually found only in the festive season of deepawali. These are people with sweet boxes trying to reach and please their respective business beneficiaries prior to the festival day. This is a typical syndrome in the PP (public private) mode of “life – business – governance cycle of operations” in the corporate world in almost every city in India.

The nature and truth behind these dabbas (boxes) and the corporate dabbawals has though evolved over time. The journey of the dabbas started as a good will gesture when friends & relatives used to exchange sweets on the auspicious festive occasion. This was a well intended exchange of wishes and had nothing quid-pro-co hidden inside. Over ages now the tradition of dabbas on deepawali has evolved to deliver different motives.

You can find various kinds of contents floating in these dabbas today. I met one such gentle man who is a typical babu and a proud receiver of dabbas every deepawali. He received more than 35 Dabbas this deepawali. I was enlightened with academic information that these days not all the dabbas have sweets inside, in fact most of the dabba’s do not have sweets inside. Many other kind of items are also found in these sweet boxes like latest mobile handsets, video camera’s of small sizes, biscuits & coins (of course made of gold), diamond rings (to please madam), different variety of gift /travel vouchers etc. Stretch your imagination and you will still fall short of thereality… these sweet boxes have hi fi dimension products inside… They say that majority of the dabba’s in deepawali are used to guise the exchange of hard cash! As per one guesstimate the exchange of ‘green’ can accumulate to the tune of a few thousand crore rupees on a pan India basis. All these transactions just over a couple of days!

Once upon a time the burnt cracker debris in front of your house was an indication of how well you celebrated the festival. Today it is the count, variety & size of the used dabba’s thrown in the dustbin indicates how “wealthy” festival time had been for you. Hopefully now the IT sleuths will have a special drive from the upcoming festival season to take a count of the empty dabbas in front of houses in the streets.

Festival time dabbas are increasingly becoming an integral part of our corporate culture today. If a business unit does not indulge in dabba’s the happiness quotient in times to come is likely to come down, the payment lead time is likely to increase, the discounts or giveaways will be forced to be hiked and worst the future business prospects are at stake! Considering all this it makes sense for a business unit to distribute dabbas in advance of the festival. This is very much important the dabbas have to come in advance, if it is delayed the boss might not be pleased enough!

It was a surprise for me to know that most of the corporate’s in India spends at least two weeks time in advance to fulfill this corporate special responsibility! At times even an especially dedicated taskforce is set in action to work out the logistics and allocation of dabbas. The CSR administration machinery works round the clock to work out the dabba inventory. Which dabba to be handed over to which babu /
beneficiary and by whom at which place is a critical decision.

The best part is one cannot apparently identify these sweet boxes as bribes yet those hand’s who deliver the business checks gets greased. The giver and receiver of the dabba’s as well are much relieved from the pseudo sense of sin involved in the exchange of bribe. After all deepawali symbolizes the victory of good over evil and hence one need to be careful & safe!

Ajit Varwandkar
Managing Director
http://www.aglakadam.com

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