The Tiffinwallahs’ delivery system as a form of literacies

Recently, a friend started a lunch delivery service. She makes healthy, delicious, and affordable lunches every day. The lunches are delivered in an aluminum container, also known as a tiffin. She got this idea after watching a documentary about Mumbai’s Tiffinwallahs aka Dabbawallahs (those who deliver tiffins). Each day in Mumbai, “approximately 4,000 dabbawallahs deliver 160,000 home-cooked lunches from the kitchens of suburban wives and mothers direct to Mumbai’s workers.”Harvard’s Business School has studied this intricate delivery service, calling it “the world’s most ingenious meal distribution system.” What makes this service so fascinating to me is the coding system the tiffinwallahs have created. Although many do not have traditional literacy skills of reading and writing, they have re-defined literacy by creating a of successful and efficient communication through elaborate colour coding. Forbes magazine has awarded the “dabbawallahs a 6 Sigma performance rating (a term used in quality assurance if the percentage of correctness is 99.9999999 or more).” The business is also growing at a steady pace of 5-10% year.

The colour/numerical code created for the lids of tiffins:


Watch the Tiffinwallahs in action:

Read more about the Tiffinwallahs in Mumbai here:

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