They have a Six Sigma quality certificate and a global business fan club that includes Prince Charles and flamboyant owner of Virgin Group Richard Branson. But, Mumbai's famous dabbawalas, now want to drive cabs to supplement their meagre income.
Mumbai's 5,000-odd dabbawalas have been in action for over 125 years, without work stoppages (except for one day of bandh), and deliver nearly 2,00,000 lunches everyday. Their unique operational method is a subject of management study in global business schools.
However, they now feel that they should go beyond the food business. Some dabbawalas are engaged in plying cabs, mostly hired, in the night shifts and some take up part-time work to supplement their income.
"We have been providing a service with clockwork precision to the people of Mumbai faithfully for the past 120 years, without strikes or agitations. After all this hard work, a dabbawala earns an average of Rs.8000-10,000 per month, which barely suffices in these days of inflation," said Subhash Talekar, spokesperson of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association (NMTBSA).
"The state government is planning to revive and release around 14,000 new taxi permits for Mumbai and its suburbs. We want a reasonable 10-15 percent reservation from this, exclusively for dabbawalas," Talekar said. The small quota would take care of around 2,000 dabbawalas.
A delegation of NMTBSA members will soon call on Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Home Minister R.R. Patil with a formal request in this regard, Talekar said.
The home minister may understand their situation as he recently released a book 'The Wonders of Dabbawalas Unfolded', written by Gangaram Talekar.