Efficiency Analysis: India’s dabbawallahs

This doesn’t have as much to do with marketing than it does with operational efficiencies, which affect our business lives as much as any other element. In India, 175k home-cooked meals are delivered every day by an army of illiterate men, named dabbawallahs, on trains, bikes, and on-foot from suburban homes to business people substantially far away in Mumbai. The delivery device is a triffin, a crafty stack of trays that keep 4-course meals separate, fresh, and protected. Since these delivery men are illiterate, an ingenious color coding system (seen above) is used to ensure accurate and efficient deliveries. The system is so accurate that only one out of every 8MM tiffins is lost. One out of every 8 million!! Think about that. Amazing.

The primary thing we in corporate America can learn from this is that there are basic mechanics to what we do, and if those basics are mastered and carried through with precision, the remaining steps throughout the process will fall into place. In marketing, it’s easy to lose site of the basic mechanics, especially with the relentless introduction of new technologies and philosophies coming from every channel, vertical, and direction. Yet, as long as we use all available resource and technology to understand our clients’ landscape, target, and objectives, we can use our experience and intuition to deliver a service and product that stays on-mark. Yet, if we let those fundamentals slip, the rest of the system will go awry.

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