Let me start by setting the context – who is a Mumbai Dabbawala? “Dabba” literally means a box and a Dabbawala is a person who carries the box. Everyday, thousands of Mumbaikars (a slang that refers to the residents of Mumbai, the financial capital of India) rely on the Dabbawalas to deliver their lunch boxes carrying the homemade food to their work places. Given the increased cost of living in India and the reluctance to have junk food for everyday meal, many households depend on the network of Dabbawalas. Mumbai is one of the largest cities in the world and an average working professional will have to leave home pretty early in the day to take the local train to commute to the work. The packed food carried from home will lose its freshness by noon. Mumbai Dabbawalas pick up the lunch box much later and manage to deliver it just in time for lunch preserving the warmth of the home food. The whole process repeats in the evening when they collect the empty boxes to drop them back at the respective households. So, what is special about it and how is this related to Apache Hadoop? Keep reading!
While the premise of picking up lunchboxes and delivering at work places sounds simple, there is a highly sophisticated and more than a century old process that quietly works behind the scenes. The efficiency of the process has earned the Dabbawalas a six-sigma rating from Forbes magazine. The Six Sigma quality certification was established by the International Quality Federation in 1986, to judge the quality standards of an organization. There are more than 5000 Dabbawalas who deliver over 300,000 lunchboxes everyday covering every nook and corner of Mumbai. Braving extreme weather conditions which is common during the monsoon season in Mumbai, the Dabbawalas manage to deliver the boxes on time every working day. The local Dabbawalas at the receiving and the sending ends are known to the customers personally, so that there is no question of lack of trust. Also, they are well accustomed to the local areas they cater to, which allows them to access any destination with ease. They rely on bicycles, carriages and the local trains to transport the lunchboxes during the round trip. On an average, every lunch box changes hands four times and travels 60-70 kilometres in its journey to reach its eventual destination. Each box is differentiated and sorted along the route on the basis of markings on the lid, which give an indication of the source as well as the destination address.