Tag Archives: Mumbai

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:


International Baccalaureate symbol

IB schooling in Mumbai

While in Mumbai, I (Pooja) had some candid conversations with my cousins (who now have school-aged children) about schooling. The International Baccalaureate (IB) has quickly become the new standard. My cousins spoke highly about the IB curriculum, noting that it encouraged students to view themselves as “global citizens.”  The curriculum, they commented, deviated away from that of traditional schooling in India. The skills were now focused on: critical thinking; intercultural awareness; independent learning; evaluating and constructing arguments; and independent learning.

The pressures to get their children into an International Baccalaureate (IB) program were high. My cousins already had aspirations of sending their young children to top-performing universities outside of India (mostly in the U.S., Canada, and U.K.).   A major concern I heard was that if they did not get into an IB program, how would they compete in this highly globalized world? I understood this to mean that in order to be competitive one had to be complete their formal education outside of India. This  was concerning  because competition aside, IB schools are extremely expensive, and so, not available to the vast majority of families in India. While very few are privileged to apply and possibly attend IB schools in India, most school children in India still attend public school. I am interested in learning more about the public school curriculum in Mumbai? How are public schools currently preparing their students to be  “global citizens?” or is this a notion that is still intangible for most? Pooja