Ming the Mechanic:
Dabba Wallah

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Dabba Wallah2007-02-05 15:45
16 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Culiblog, Metafilter. In India there's a system where homecooked meals get delivered to your office every day. Apparently that works well.
In Mumbai (pop +16 million) there are reported to be more than 5,000 Dabba Wallahs. A “Dabba” is a ‘tiffin’ or ‘lunch box’, a ‘Wallah’ is a man or the carrier. The Dabba Wallahs deliver home cooked meals, picked up piping hot each morning from suburban households, and distribute them to more than 170,000 office workers spread across the entire city. This system relies on multiple relays of Dabba Wallahs, and a single tiffin box may change hands up to three times during its journey from home to office.

No matter that few Dabba Wallahs can read or write, they interpret a series of colour coded dots, dashes and crosses on the lids of the lunch containers, indicating the area, street, building and floor of the Dabba’s final destination. The Dabba Wallah margin of error has been calculated at an one mistake in eight million deliveries, an accuracy that has earned the Dabba Wallah system a Sigma 6 rating by Forbes magazine. ‘Sigma’ is a term used in quality assurance if the percentage of correctness is 99.9999999 or more. Here comes the math: for every six million tiffins delivered, only one fails to arrive. This error rate means that a Mumbai tiffin goes astray only once every two months.
Of course, that rate of success sounds greatly exaggerated, and I doubt it can be true, even if it maybe is a very efficient system. But Six Sigma is kind of an interesting concept. Actually that just requires 99.9997% accuracy, which would be 3.4 errors in one million, not 99.9999999%, which would be just one error in one billion, which sounds pretty unfeasible. 99.9997% sounds pretty crazy as well, if humans are involved. I suppose an automated banking system ought to certainly have that kind of error rate or better.


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16 comments

5 Feb 2007 @ 16:25 by b : Ming, I have seen
this work in Mumbai. This food is delivered every day with no paperwork to tens of thousands of people in the island city of Mumbai. There is a great sense of unity and harmony among the people there. More amazing is that all the dishes and utencils ae picked up after the meal, cleaned, ready to be reloaded for delivery the next meal. Also mobile phones are eveywhere and a call to a resturant or store can bring you a delivery of anything at any hour of the day or night in Mumbai.  


5 Feb 2007 @ 16:57 by ming : Efficiency
And all for just a few dollars per month. It is quite remarkable. Of course low wages has something to do with it, but there also seems to be a pride in one's work there, which might be hard to find in many other parts of the world.  


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