This study provides an in-depth review of the dabbawala organization and provides an analysis of how their practices affect their organizational prosperity. After identifying their success factors, I also outlined challenges they were facing due to a lack of technology integration in their supply chain. The dabbawala organization provides a wealth of knowledge in regards to organizational structure, organizational practices, and employee motivation. Additionally, the recommendations found in this study can be used to improve supply chains in other industries. State and municipal governments can also utilize this information to recommend healthier food alternatives for their citizens.
This study also provides a foundation for the dabbawalas to ask for government aid in expanding their operations. Increased educational attainment and organizational expansion to other areas would help to reduce unemployment and poverty in the rural areas as the dabbawalas earn an above average salary for what are essentially menial tasks. The main reason for the dabbawalas’ stagnation is employee homogeneity where all workers share the same culture, religion, and skills. The government can help in the expansion through providing subsidized training for the dabbawalas members where interested parties would receive training on auxiliary skills such as accounting, and management. Over time, such skills would improve organizational performance, as it would result in a diversified workplace.
One of the main limitations of this study is the lack of quantitative data on the dabbawala organization. This study paves the way for future research that would provide empirical evidence on how changes in the dabbawala’s operations are likely to affect their overall profitability and growth. Researchers with sufficient funding can undertake a long-term quantitative study of the dabbawalas, which would provide definitive statistics about their performance.
The dabbawalas are a good example of an efficient supply chain and logistics systems. While they are mostly illiterate employees who are also partners they have managed to maintain a six-sigma rating for over a century with less than one mistake per six million deliveries. This thesis explored the dabbawala organization to determine the factors that have led to their long-term success. Additionally, it also conducted an environment analysis to determine what factors have led to the dabbawala’s recent stagnation in revenues and client base. Due to time and financial limitations, the research followed a case study methodology where I conducted a meta-analysis of the available body of knowledge on the dabbawalas and organizational theory in order to answer the research questions. The literature was drawn from scholarly databases such as Google scholar, ProQuest, and Jstor that all provide peer-reviewed material.
The results of the analysis showed three major findings. First, the dabbawala’s success lies in the cultural significance of their service. The dabbawalas provide home cooked food to workers in metropolitan Mumbai, which is a melting pot of many cultures with each culture having its own culinary preferences. Additionally, employee dedication and sense of organizational community have also helped in maintaining the six-sigma service levels. Having employees as partners in the business increases their dedication towards achieving organizational objectives as the end-month salary is dependent on the efforts of every individual in the team. Additionally, their practice of hiring based on recommendations from existing members means that all employees have a similar culture and code of conduct thus easing managerial duties and increasing efficiency.
The second finding is that while the dabbawala’s practices have facilitated their success, they have also hindered their potential expansion to other regions where their services may be needed. Increased employee homogeneity results in decreased organizational innovation that is the current scenario with the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. They have focused their hiring on the originating villages of existing members who have low educational attainments thus limiting their diversification into other auxiliary fields such as management and accounting. This has also limited their potential to adapt to a changing business environment.
The analysis above suggests four recommendations. First, the dabbawalas should work to increase the general educational attainment of their members. This can be done through additional training programs that would teach them additional skills such as management and accounting. An increase in education would also help in acquiring additional skills that would be beneficial to the organization such as technology use. On a broader scale, an increase in education would also help in reducing the poverty levels in the country, as the current generation of dabbawalas would then have an opportunity to improve the education of their relatives in the villages, which is a more sustainable approach to poverty reduction as compared to simply giving employment. Learning additional skills would also help the dabbawalas in
Secondly, the dabbawalas should also change their hiring practices to reflect the changing times. Traditionally, the dabbawalas have mainly recruited from the region of Pune whose main residents are subsistence farmers. Since this region is characterized by above average poverty levels, children have limited funding to pursue their studies and becoming dabbawalas for an average monthly salary of Rs 5000-8000. While most of the dabbawalas choose to send a lion’s share back home, it does not offer a sustainable solution to reduce poverty levels in the country. Simply getting employment and sending funds back home has created a cycle of low education levels and poverty levels that are tough to break resulting in a large workforce of semi-literate workers who have limited employment opportunities in the city. Changing their hiring practices would help in exposing the organization to new ideas while also gaining a more diverse skillset.
A change in managerial attitude is necessary in order for the dabbawala to implement the recommended changes. As past research shows, the managerial attitude has the greatest influence on the employee expectations and code of conduct. Currently, the dabbawala’s President, Mr. Medge, sees no need for employee diversification or a change in organizational strategy and thus, this is the commonly accepted attitude among the employees. However, it has stagnated their operations, as the dabbawalas are currently unable to significantly increase their client base, which has also resulted in a relatively unchanging workforce. Therefore, changing the managerial attitude is necessary for spurring a change among the employees.
The fourth recommendation is towards the government, who can collaborate with the dabbawala organization to reduce unemployment and poverty levels while also providing healthier alternatives for city workers. The government can aid the dabbawala organization in expanding their operations to other cities through providing educational opportunities and providing reliable transport infrastructure. As shown from the analysis above, the major strength of the dabbawala organization is the extensive railway infrastructure that provides a low-cost solution to freight transportation. Without this railway system, they would incur similar costs to other food distribution systems such as McDonalds. Therefore, for effective and rapid expansion to other cities, the government can aid through providing reliable freight transport infrastructure.
The fifth recommendation is towards researchers who will conduct future studies on the dabbawalas. During the course of this research, I mainly utilized qualitative data from prior case studies on the dabbawala due to time and financial limitations. Therefore, future researchers with adequate resources should conduct intensive quantitative studies that would help in providing definitive statistics about the dabbawala organization.
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