1.3 Problem Statement
Although the dabbawala have been in operation for over a century, they have largely operated unchanged from the time they came into existence. This has been mainly attributed to their under-reliance on technology to conduct their operations, which rely on a rail network to reduce transportation costs (Thomke et al., 2010). However, while the Dabbawala organizational structure is easily scalable, they have been unable to cover larger distances because of mostly employing workers who prefer to avoid the use of technology in day-to-day operations. As Chakraborty et al. (2015) outlines, the limited use of technology and lack of employee diversity limits the organization’s potential for change and capability to expand into other regions where they might achieve greater returns on investment through capitalizing on new fast growing markets. With the rising concerns about the consumption of fast food and obesity, Indians are now expected to turn to healthier dietary options rather than having fast foods or take-out food every day (Pradeepa et al., 2015). This gives the dabbawala and other food systems the chance to capitalize on the growing demand for homemade food supply as India hosts some of the fastest growing cities such as Ghaziabad, and Surat. An examination of the dabbawala system will assess its suitability for other cities in India, which are experiencing rapid growth and would benefit from the dabbawala service since the dabbawalas’ home cooked food is better in nutritional value and hygiene as compared to fast foods or the highly priced cultural dishes prepared in high-end hotels. Additionally, the dabbawala service is also useful for those with special needs or highly specific diets as only family members can prepare such foods well. As such, the growth of the Dabbawala is necessary but is not possible with their current organizational framework.
While the organization has largely had a technology free operation, the dabbawalas stand to benefit substantially from the incorporation of technological innovations into their business operations. For instance, they could utilize social media for wider and more comprehensive marketing campaigns that could expand their target demographics. A comparison with one of the dabbawalas’ competitors, McDonalds India, reveals how technology can be utilized to improve organizational marketing efforts for a wider coverage at a fraction of the resources required for word of mouth marketing. Therefore, this paper will analyze the available literature to determine how the Dabbawala growth and scalability problem can be solved with technology, which would allow them to expand their operations to other cities and increase profitability.
This report will analyze the available literature on organizational practices and then analyze the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association (Dabbawalas) to determine the suitability and transferability of their organizational model of service to other cities. I will analyze how their organizational structure has aided in achieving their organizational goals especially the emphasis on a community culture and service quality. Additionally, I will compare the technology practices of the MTBSA with those of McDonalds India, a fast food franchise, to determine how technology has aided in the expansion of other food systems and the effects of different organizational motivational practices. McDonalds has been very successful in their global campaigns and therefore, an analysis of their marketing practices is expected to provide insights on how other food systems can increase their revenue and market using technology. This report will then conclude by providing recommendations on how the Dabbawala can improve their organizational culture and practices to improve their future business outlook and profitability.
1.4 Analytical Framework
Prior literature on the dabbawala has mainly focused on the factors that have facilitated the dabbawala’s efficiency. However, these studies have not explored how the organizational structure though highly effective, has hindered organizational growth. This study will draw on existing organization theory to explain how the MTBSA’s structure and practices have created a self-reinforcing stagnation loop in organizational innovation. With other food alternatives such as fast foods and street foods becoming increasingly popular, there is a need to evaluate why the dabbawalas have not scaled their operations to take advantage of upcoming opportunities. Therefore, I will analyze the available body on knowledge on how organization practices and management affect overall performance. This framework is the most appropriate for a case study on the dabbawalas as their growth problems stem from internal factors.
Based on this framework, I formulated three questions:
a. What are the practices that have facilitated the dabbawala’s long-term success and are they applicable to other geographical regions?
b. How can the dabbawala change their organizational practices to facilitate expansion into new cities?
c. Are there practices that the Dabbawala can adapt from McDonalds India that can help them in expanding their network into other cities?
In order to answer these questions accurately, it will be necessary to perform a comprehensive review of the current academic literature on how organizational structure and management affects performance.
1.5 Significance of the Problem
The Dabbawalas have been in operation for more than a century even during times of famine and war. Additional information on the supply chain and logistics system that the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association has created over the decades offers significant lessons for management and logistics teams in multiple industries. Additionally, this study could also be useful to the MBTSA at the information provided therein will contribute to the enhancement of knowledge of business practices and organizational performance. Thus, organizations that apply the recommendations derived from this study’s results will be able to achieve organizational change and growth faster as compared to relying on outdated practices. Furthermore, this study would also be beneficial to governments considering how to curb the rising health and food costs, increasing employment, and improving the standards of living of citizens. Furthermore, for researchers, the study may provide a reference for future research regarding organizational principles derived from the Dabbawala organization.
1.6 Project Assumptions
i. This study also assumes that the Dabbawala food delivery system is similar to other food systems globally and efficiency lessons can be derived to help in expanding to other cities. While the dabbawala has achieved sis-sigma efficiency in their food delivery system, there have not been many quantitative studies on the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association and it is, therefore, difficult to accurately determine whether they could achieve similar results in other cities without a reliable railway infrastructure.
ii. I have also assumed that a qualitative case study methodology is the best method to approach the exploration of this study’s variables. While I have chosen a qualitative case study for this approach it relies on previous case studies done on the organization. Therefore, I have assumed that the previous qualitative research is accurate.
1.7 Basic Limitations
i. The study results cannot be generalized to other food systems in other cities as the extensive railway system, which underlies the entire organizational model, is unique to Mumbai. The main competitive advantage that the dabbawalas possess over other supply chain system is their easy access to affordable transport. The Mumbai railway system is extensive as it is the main form of transport for daily commuters to different parts of the cities. Most cities in India do not have extensive railway systems or a reliable low-cost solution for mass transport.
ii. Due to funding and time constraints, it was not possible to conduct an on-site study on the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. This study is a qualitative case study drawing on the available research and thus, its scope is limited to the available literature, which is qualitative in nature. The nature of the organization makes it hard for anyone to conduct a detailed quantitative study as the dabbawalas have