Food & Beverage

What are the management lessons from India’s food deliverymen

Junjia Luo | Special to CNBC
Mumbai's dabbawala lunch delivery empire

Smartphones have not only influenced our style of communication, but also how we eat.

Could the feverish growth in apps such as UberEats, Deliveroo or Food Panda portend a displacement of traditional delivery providers? Pawan Agrawal begs to differ.

"This is a story about working in Mumbai for the last 125 years. Five thousand people delivering two hundred thousand lunchboxes every day.

And you'll be surprised in 125 years, there has been no mistake," Agrawal, founder and president of Kamalabai Educational and Charitable Trust, told CNBC's "Street Signs".

Throughout the years, Pawan Agrawal has raised the awareness and social well-being of the dabbawallas in Mumbai, a group of white-hat wearing individuals responsible for delivering homemade food packed in tiffins (lunch boxes) to offices in the city.

Dabbawallas arranging lunchboxes in crate, Mumbai, India.
Dinodia Photo | Getty Images

Prior to Kamalabai Educational and Charitable Trust, Agrawal was the CEO of Mumbai Dabbawallas, an organization that employs semi-literate individuals to deliver homemade food across the city of Mumbai.

When asked about the lessons that big businesses could learn from such a complex supply chain, Agrawal highlighted the importance of simplicity.

"It's a complex business but they are doing it with simplicity. The delivery is not important, how they deliver is important."

Despite the working class backgrounds of the delivery workers, Agrawal argued that a business or an individual can go against the odds and remain successful if there is passion and a strong sense of ownership.

"Despite their illiteracy in education, they are literate in work. This is only because they have the passion to work, the dedication to their job. They feel ownership of this business and that's why they are able to deal with all those things." Agrawal said.

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