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Future tense: Dabbawalas face staff crunch

The association’s been maintaining its current strength of 5,000 for five years now.

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Future tense: Dabbawalas face staff crunch
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While the last five years saw an increasing people preferring home-food tiffins to eating outside, the number of dabbawalas to deliver the goods has remained as before.

In fact, members of the dabbawala associations are worried about the impending manpower shortage, which is certain to hit them soon.

The Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier Association is one of the leading chains supplying tiffin boxes across the city. The dabbawalas, who have established an accurate and precise system of delivering hot home-cooked meals to over two lakh office-goers in the city, have drawn praise from across the world, including business schools who want to study their system. Even Prince Charles made it a point to invite them to his second wedding on his visit to the city in 2003.

Notably, not much has changed since the Charles visit, with the association maintaining its current strength of 5,000 people for at least five years now. This, while the customer base has swelled significantly. Each year, around 8-10 thousand new orders are placed by customers to deliver dabba (tiffin) of home-cooked food to their work places. Currently, the association caters to nearly two lakh customers and this number is only set to rise in future.

“As of now, we somehow manage to satisfy our customers, but will surely feel the pinch of manpower shortage in days to come. The dabbawalas are like an extended family business, where the workers’ sons join in, thus adding or balancing the numbers,” said Raghunath Megde, President,Mumbai Tiffin Box Association.

All dabbawalas belong to a specific rural area near Pune.

“While the educated look for corporate jobs, other villagers from the area find the going tough in the city, given that the house rent here would be more than their salary, which fluctuates as per the number of customers,” added Megde.

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