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Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association February 1, 2014

Posted by Ramnath Rangaswamy in Emerging Markets, India, Logistics, Supply Chain.
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About 3 weeks back, I had the immense good fortune to listen to Mr Raghunath Megde, speak to us about customer service. Mr Raghunath Megde is the President of the Mumbai Dabbawalla Association.

It was a very humbling experience. He spoke from his heart and all the 700+ people listening to him, enjoyed his talk. We must have clapped scores of times during his 45 minute talk.

His talk got the me thinking. What was the secret ingredient that made his organization so successful? What are the lessons for us?   Many articles and case studies have been written about their service. But what I have tried to do is cull out what I thought were the important points from a Logistics standpoint and what I learnt from the excellent talk.

Setting very clear targets – This is a cliché, but this organization really follows it. The goal is that all meals must be delivered between 12.30 and 13.30 hrs. It is as simple as that.

That is the only target or goal of the dabbawallas. They have no other targets. They have kept it very simple. No Employee Satisfaction Survey scores, no customer satisfaction scores, nothing.

The dabbawallas do not even pick up cellphones during this time.[ I know that many German companies do not allow their workers to use cellphones on the shop floor]

Link to a bigger mission – The delivery of meals has been linked to religion. As per the   Hindu religion, there is no bigger and better good deed than feeding someone. Linking the delivery of food to a religion is very smart. In India (as I am sure in many parts of the world) work in the name of religion, is done with full dedication and sincerity. There is no debate or   arguments on a goal or mission linked to religion.

Discipline – Absenteeism without notice is fined Rs 1000 (US$ 17) about 10% of his monthly salary. Not wearing a cap, which is part of the uniform, is fined Rs 1000. Discipline is very essential in logistics. A picker absent in a warehouse or delivery boy absent without notice in a courier company or a truck driver not coming on time leads to delays and logistics failures.

The discipline is required to ensures reliability of service and delivery.

Trust –The dabbawallas trust each other implicitly. The dabba (lunch box) passes through so many hands At the railway stations, the dabbawalla will handover the lunch boxes to a person wearing the cap (which is a symbol of the dabbawalla). The trust element is all pervasive. This ensures that each person in the supply chain link focusses only on his part of the job without looking over his shoulders or checking if  the previous person in the supply chain is doing his/her job correctly.

Owning all elements of the supply chain- The dabbawallas have not outsourced any activity to a 3PL or 4PL. The only service they do not have control is the Indian Railways, which runs a very efficient suburban service in Mumbai. Is there a lesson here? Do 3PLs/4PLs have to be partners rather than vendors?

Backup – Every team has backups so that in case somebody is absent, another person steps in for the person. In modern organizations, there is always a focus on reducing headcount to the extent of impacting customer service. I believe that organizations should be lean, but there is an optimum number required to deliver quality service.

It was a good start to 2014 for me! Wish all of you A Great 2014!