Bridge between Home Made Food and Hunger
Please review the case study and share your reflections for the questions listed below:
Dabbawallas: The bridge between home-made food and hunger
“We are Dabbawala, (one, who carries the box), in the Indian city of Mumbai. We carry and deliver freshly made food from the customer’s home in a lunch box (Dabba) and deliver it to offices. It may sound simple, but it’s not. It is actually a highly specialized trade that has evolved in its current form over a century and has become integral to Mumbai’s culture. We are about 5.000 in number and deliver approximately 200.000 tiffin boxes every day.”
This initiative started some 125 years ago when one banker from the Parsi community wanted home-cooked food delivered to his workplace and a visionary Mr. Mahadev Bachche saw an opportunity and started this system with an initial group of 100 people. In an Indian situation, it is important to keep charges affordable for the majority of people. By organizing themselves into small and locally autonomous groups Dabbawalas have a rather flat organizational structure helping to keep costs low.
Each Dabbawala person is treated as an autonomous entrepreneur and is free to negotiate with customers. Average customers pay about US$10 per month for their services. The Mumbai suburban railway network is central to the operation of Dabbawalas which also contributes to lower costs compared to special road transport. The Dabbawalas deliver about 120 tons of food every day, of which 16 tons is left uneaten. In the same city, 200.000 thousand are hungry in the streets. How can this food get to the needy?
The Happy Life Welfare Society
The Happy Life Welfare Society came up with the idea of a sticker that says “Share”. Those willing to share the food, paste the sticker on it. The food from such lunch boxes is sorted out and distributed to the needy by volunteers. Another such initiative, started off by the Dabbawalas, is the Roti Bank. 300 Dabbawalas pick up the leftover food and distribute it among the needy after they finish their duties for the day. As they know every nook and corner of the city it is not difficult to find the needy – those living in the slums, on the roads, sick people, and their families who come from other states.
The Dabbawalla-system supplies thousands of people with food, offers income and earnings for thousands more, and even supports those who have nothing. The bicycle-driven system also contributes to a more sustainable city and opens opportunities that strengthen local food markets.
Questions to reflect and respond:
What are the key features of Dabbawalas as a model of food delivery?
Think of a hunger situation in your country.
What would you propose to the government by learning from the Dabbawalas example?
Will the Dabbawala system cope with the challenges of a global city in the future?
Is the Dabbawala system a key factor for sustainable urban development?
Video documentation “DabbaWalas – Amazing Meal Delivery in India”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTkGDXRnR9I
Dabbawala on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dabbawala
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Please, list references (with hyperlink to article)