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The final project is designed to assess the students' understanding of theory and its application across the subject through working on an analytical and research based project that addresses contemporary issues in the area of operations management.

From the below mentioned video case study, identify the process(s) highlighted, and determine the key factors (positive and or negative) in the design, planning and control of operations. Select one operational issue, research the importance of this issue in relation to the case at hand using an appropriate analytical tool that can be used to address the issue.

Overview of the Case Study

Business process management is a procedural approach adopted by business organizations to make the workflow more effective, efficient and capable of coping with the dynamic business environment Rouse, 2011; Ko, 2009). The management of processes in business management is essential to the growth of every business by ensuring that it achieves its goals. Panagacos (2012, pp 6) notes that business process management aims at improving corporate performance by enhancing the efficiency of the business process. Business process management as a policy making approach considers the process as an important asset to an organization that needs proper understanding, management, and development to ensure that the organization is able to provide value-added products and services to the clients or customers. Business process management resembles total quality management methodology in practice, and the process can be supported using technology (Gong and Janssen, 2011). According to Mane et al. (2009), a business should design its processes in such a way that ensures customer satisfaction through quality products and services and that it is able to maintain a healthy long-term relationship with the customers through continued perfection to meet world class standard.

This report is based on case study video on dabbawalas of India. Modern business environment emphasizes the application of high technology in solving complex business issues. However, dabbawalas a group of illiterate Indian entrepreneurs just uses the six sigma principles to improve their business.

Supply chain management is a vital element in the operations of any business. The case study focuses on the Mumbai dabbawala operations. In India, the name Dabbawala is used to refer to a person employed to collects and deliver freshly cooked food which is packed in lunch boxes for the workers in the offices from their places of residence to their place of work. The dabdawalas then collects the empty lunch boxes and delivers them back to the clients’ residences. They use different means of transport to deliver the foods such as trains and bicycles among other modes. In their business, the Mumbai dabbawalas present an example of an excellent supply chain management.

The origin of this service industry can be traced back in the colonial period since the Britons who came to India did not like the local food they employed people to deliver home-made food to their places of work in 1980. The lunch boxes referred to as dabbas in India were transported using horse-drawn trams and were delivered to the areas which had important offices. In 1956, Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association (NMTBSA) was registered as a charitable trust organization. The organization was headed by the president, Raghunath Medge. He was also being assisted by a general secretary, a treasurer, and a director. In the recent times, Businessmen in Mumbai have embraced this service industry and have now become major clients of the dabbwallas. The industry has a workforce of about 5,000 workers which includes a small portion of women. This industry has gained popularity not only in India but also in other parts of the world. The learning institutions in India have also identified the success of the business and have been inviting dabbawalas’ representatives for discussion and also to improve the content of their education.

How the Business Operates

People mainly use dabbawalas because they want to eat properly cooked food from their homes for lunch. Most of the office workers in Mumbai reside in the suburbs of the city from where they commute daily to work. They usually leave their homes at around 7.00 am and get back to their homes at 7 pm. Due to the congestion in the trains, it is not possible for the workers to carry food from their homes while most of them cannot afford to buy food from the hotels daily. Also, most of the offices do not have canteens or cafeterias where workers can have lunch. They also perceive roadside food to be unhealthy and unhygienic, and in addition in India, people have diverse food choices which make it difficult for office cafeterias to provide food services that will meet the need of all the workers. The dabbawalas provide their services to approximately 200, 000 people by delivering food cooked in their homes in lunch boxes. The customers are charged between Rs 150 to Rs 300 or 3-7 USD per lunch box each month which varies depending on the location and the time of collection. The dabbawalas donate a portion of their monthly earnings to the organization.

The dabbawalas have a well-functioning system which is founded on the organization, management, process and culture which are mutually dependent and designed perfectly to suit each other. This kind of operation is not common in the corporate world since very few organization put into consideration the importance of the four elements mentioned above (Thomke, 2012). The process of delivering food from the kitchen to the client may involve three to twelve dabbawallas. Each dabbawala is assigned an area from which he or she operates and starts working from 9 am. The dabbawala spends about an hour collecting lunch boxes in his or her area. They walk or use bicycles to travel and collect dabbas. Each household should ensure that food is prepared and packed by the time the dabbawalas go to collect the food. The dabbawalas in a common area gather together at the train station after collecting the lunch boxes where they share out the lunch boxes by considering their next destinations. The coding process used makes the sorting process easy and effective.

On reaching the next destination, the dabbas are sorted again depending on the next train station. Each station is assigned with a dabbawala who is responsible for delivering dabbas to their final destinations. A hub and spoke method are used to sort the dabbas before being handed over to the dabbawala who will be going to a specific area of the city. The dabbas are then divided among a number of dabbawallas depending on which section of the area the dabbas need to be taken. In case there is a large number of dabbas that need to be delivered in a specific area, two to three dabbawalas are assigned the responsibility of the delivering them to respective offices.  The dabbawalas use hand pushed carts to deliver the food. The organization ensures that by 12:30 pm all the dabbas are delivered to the respective customers who enjoy taking home-made food. The same process is used while collecting the empty dabbas after lunch. The dabbawalas who delivered the lunch boxes collect the empty boxes for the offices and collects them to the nearest train station then the processes of sorting and sharing are repeated until the dabbawalas at the resident levels in order to return the dabbas to the customers’ homes.

Structural Organization

The Mumbai Tiifin Box Suppliers Association (MTBSA) has been in operation for about 120 years. The organization is made of over 4,500 members who are semi-literate and have a large number of customers to whom they offer their door to door services daily. The organization has three operational parts which include the governing council which is comprised of the president, vice-president, general secretary, treasurer and nine directors, the mukadams and the dabbawalas. According to Agrawal (2012), MTBSA function is to regulate the activities of the dabbawalas and solve any conflicts that may arise between them or with the customers and authorities.

Dabbawalas are sub-divided into groups, each comprising of 15 to 25 and is managed by four mukadams. Each group has its financial operations, but they coordinate with others while making deliveries which makes it possible for the industry to operate. The groups compete while searching for customers but they are united in delivering the services. Each group manages its daily operations

The dabbawalas should be committed to delivering their services. They are also required to have some capital investments while joining the organization. The minimum investment for each dabbawala is two bicycles (costing around Rs. 4,000), wooden create for carrying tiffins (Rs. 500), a white cotton kurta-pyjama (Rs. 600) and a trademark Gandhi topi (Rs. 20). The average monthly earning of a dabbawala ranges between Rs 5,000 to Rs. 6,000. Each dabbawala then donates 15% of his or her monthly earnings to the organization which is used to fund community works, loans and providing discounts or marriage venues. The organization holds monthly meeting which is aimed at identifying and discussing the customer services and identifying any complaints about the customers

According to Bernajee (2009), Mumbai dabbawalas apply minimal technology, process or structure in the food delivery services. Thomke et al. (2012) note that the dabbawala organization in Mumbai has achieved quality service performance at an affordable cost while using a less complex system. They apply a simple sigma six methodologies to offer high quality and dependable food delivery services in India. The six sigma methodology implies that there should be less than 3.4 defects in a million opportunities (Harmon, 2007). This implies that out of every one million dabbas that need to be collected and delivered to offices in Mumbai, only three or fewer dabbas can reach the desired destination late. According to Pathak (2010), the organization does not use factors such as rain or traffic as excuses why the lunch boxes failed to be delivered on time. This makes the dabbawallas service to be efficient and reliable. According to Gillman (2017), the Mumbai dabbawala is a recognized six sigma organization due to their efficient cultural structure and meal delivery systems in Mumbai, India. Gillman further notes that the dabbawalas serves over 12.5 million people using barefoot men, public trains and recyclable containers and stills it is among the highest performing supply chains in the world. Recent surveys show a good impression about the organization since the dabbawalas record less than one mistake in every 6 million deliveries made. The following are the factors that have made the organization’s system to function effectively as identified by Gillman.

  1. The organization does not over-rely on technology-the dabbawalas use simple technology such as the web and SMS for orders. They do not use complex technologies such as microchips or social networks. The dabbawalas walk or use public trains to reach to collect and deliver food to the desired destinations which are more reliable.
  2. The organization has established an integrated performance chain- The dabbawala organization focuses on the whole system and not merely on individual parts of the system. The organization ensures that the whole delivery system is functional so as to eliminate mistakes that could affect the quality of the services delivered(Gillot, 2008)
  3. Acute visibility- the employees of the organization have a better understanding of the operations of the business from the point of collection to delivery. They have to ensure that they do not make any mistake that will result in a delay which could lead to failure in meeting deadlines. A small delay in the process could mean that some of the clients may miss their lunch meals. Therefore, the organization ensures that all the people in the system beginning with the households and the dabbawalas understands what they should be doing, where they need to be and the action that needs to be taken for the whole supply chain to be successful.
  4. Simplicity- The dabbawalas uses a simple system to deliver its services. In the first place the dabbawalas are aware of their customers’ needs and values, that is, they need timely delivery of food on a daily basis. They know that they should not do anything that would prevent the satisfaction of the customers. The dabbawalas’ fully focuses on the need of the customer and devote their efforts and time to meeting that need.

Business process management has been the key element of the success of the Mumbai dabbawallas. According to Bisk (2017), business process management is an all-inclusive process which does not follow the hierarchy while implementing a change in the organization. Furthermore the process does not rely on one segment or department of an organization, but instead, it engages all departments of the organization. While trying to implement business process management leaders are faced with a number of challenges especially when trying to coordinate many departments. Hedge (2007) notes that when effectively applied in an organization business process management can lead to a greater satisfaction of employees and also creates better opportunities for the organization. The following factors should be considered while applying the business process management approach.

  • Leadership roles-The leaders of the organization should be in the forefront in the process of implementing the process. The organization should ensure that it deploys people with the required leadership abilities to implement the methodology. Leaders should take the responsibility of ensuring that the process is implemented and that it is performing as expected. Leaders should have the ability to control individuals other members of the organization both within and out of their departments(Hedge 2007).
  • Communication- Apostolou et al. (2010) state that for an organization to establish an effective business process management, it must have a well-structured communication plan. Effective communication in the organization unites different departments and enables them to works harmoniously as a unit. Good communication improves the process of the organization. Effective communication is also essential in identifying any upcoming issues and solving them before they become big issues to the organization (Narasimhareddy, V. 2012)
  • Executive commitment- effective implementation of business process management requires the participation and the support of every department in the organization. The support from the top management is vital in the implementation of this methodology. When the executive supports the implementation of the process, then it can easily succeed, as it will gain the required resources for the organization(Hedge 2007).

Mumbai dabbawalas organization has noted the importance of the above factors and applied them perfectly in their system. The following are the factors that have led to the success of the organization.

  • The main organization objective is to serve the people.
  • The organization capitalizes on the attitude and commitment of the employees by educating on the importance of their responsibilities.
  • The organization builds a sense of purpose in its employees.
  • The organization ensures that it satisfyingly delivers its services.
  • The organization advocates for high self-discipline rather the collective discipline of all the employees.


  • Uses dependable modes of transport that are, local trains.
  • Has good coordination among the employees.
  • Has a loyal base of customers.
  • Their service ensures customer satisfaction.
  • The organization operates at very low cost.
  • Uses simple and innovative service techniques.
  • It is caste based.
  • Depends on traditional technology.
  • Littler fund left for the organization.
  • Requires low costs to operate.
  • It is well known.
  • Competition from other service providers.


The dabbawallas have been in existence for a long time and have survived through many challenges which include wars, political instabilities, economic fluctuations, and technological advancements among others. This could not have been possible without an established organizational culture that has been established in the organization. The organization has also been able to maintain a large base of customers due to its effective and efficient food delivery services.


Agrawal, P. 2012, Mumbai Dabbawala: Customer Service Excellence of Six Sigma Quality without technology. Your Story: Available at, D., Mentzas, G., Stojanovic, L., Thoenssen, B., & Lobo, T. P. 2010, A collaborative decision framework for managing changes in e-Government services. Government Information Quarterly, 28(1), Page 101-116, Elsevier.Bernergee, 2009, Art of leadership in today’s ever changing business scenario: Improved customer centricity- the new normal and need for us to adapt to. Available at:

Bisk 2017, implementing business process management effectively. Villanova University. Available at:

Gillot, J., 2008, the complete guide to Business Process Management. Clearance center.Gong, Y. and Janssen, M. 2011, From policy implementation to business process management: Principles for creating flexibility and agility. Government Information Quarterly, 29 (Supplement 1), ages S61-S71, Elsevier.

 Harmon, P. 2007, Business Process Change: A Guide for Business Managers and BPM and Six Sigma Professionals.

Hedge, A. 2007, An introduction to business process management: tools and techniques. Castle Ventures.

Mane, S., Ankit., Thakur, S. Lotankar, M. & Mane, P. 2009, Sigma 6 presentation.

Narasimhareddy, V. 2012, Mumbai Dabbawalas case study. Available at:

Ko, R., 2009, A computer scientist introductory guide to business process management (BPM). ACM Crossroads. Vol 15, no. 4.

Panagacos, T. 2012, The Ultimate Guide to business process management: Everything you need to know and how to apply it to your organization. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. PP. 6

Pathak, S. 2010, Delivering the Nation: The Dabbawalas of Mumbai. South Asia: Journal of South Asian

Studies. Vol 3 no.2, pp. 235-257.

Rouse, M. 2011, Business process management (BPM). Techtarget. Com: available at:

The six sigma dabbawallas of Mumbai- YouTube. Available at:

Thomke, S. 2012, Mumbai’s Models of Service Excellence. Harvard Business Review.

Thomke, S., Stefan, H. and Mona, S. 2010, The dabbawala system: On time delivery, every time. Harvard Business School.

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