Human Resource Policies and Practices – Term Paper


For the last 120 years, the organization has operated largely without major changes delivering meals to their customer with amazing dedication. In their daily operations, the dabbawalas have to wear the trademark white cap and carry identity cards, which make identification easier especially at the train stations. The dabbawalas get up early in the morning and work tirelessly to make sure that the tiffin boxes are delivered on time. Therefore, they are expected to report to work on time everyday unless prior arrangements have been made. They also have to behave properly and respect their clients which ensures continued customer loyalty.

HR policies and procedures

Flat Organization

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The organization has a simple structure with the President, Vice President, General Secretary at the top followed by a 13-member directory board under which the Dabbawalas and their Mukadams work. The organization emphasizes the autonomy of each team and member where the members are free to make decisions on their work as long as they conform to the organizational goals (Sapovadia et al., 2016). The autonomy in their teams facilitates faster decision making as compared to bureaucratic institutions with plenty of red tape and oversight.

Community-Based Recruitment

The MBTSA has no hiring restrictions except that an existing member vouches for the new entrant. Therefore, all people who have the capacity to perform their job get employment without bias. However, while this practice is useful in building and organizational community, it limits the number of potential hires to those that can be recommended by current members (Thomke et al., 2012). This results in the dabbawalas hiring from the same geographical region as members mostly recommends close friends or family. Additionally, it enables the development of an organizational worth ethic and culture where  existing members automatically train new recruits.

Human resource management policies and practices 

No Hire and Fire Rule

Since the organization is structured as a cooperative between employees where everyone is a member, anyone is free to join or leave as they wish. As Sapovadia et al. (2016) concludes, having employees as owners of the organization improves their motivation to work harder to increase the profits of both the individuals and the organization as a whole.

Common employee values and ethics

The dabbawala organization is based on a cooperative structure where the members aim to maximize mutual benefit to all members. Since all of the dabbawalas come from a poor background, they all follow the same beliefs, ethics, and values to run their business effectively. The common values also aid the management in communicating with the employees as they share similar ideologies.

Strict Dress Codes

For easier identification in the streets and as a symbol of professionalism, all dabbawalas are required to wear a white Gandhian cap at all times (Roncaglia et al., 2013). Since Dabbawalas have been part of Indian culture for over a century, the white caps are a trade symbol and aids in their movement through the crowded streets of India metropolitan areas.

Consumer loyalty is their main competitive advantage

Over the last century, the dabbawala service has kept running both in good times and bad. The service was still operation even when Mumbai experienced a terrorist attack. This has led to the organization being ranked as one of the most reliable services globally with an estimated wrong delivery rate of one box every two months. Therefore, clients are always assured of their food reaching its destination. Additionally, the organizational structure of the MTBSA places the responsibility of networking on the dabbawalas themselves allowing them to cultivate relationships in their geographical areas. This is usually done in the afternoon when the dabbawalas return the lunchboxes to the homes as they get to chat with their clients without time constraints.

HR policy

2.7 Conclusion

This chapter has explored the organizational structure of the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association, commonly known as the dabbawala, and their business model. From the available literature, the major theme emerging from the literature analysis is that of a low cost but reliable and efficient distribution system based on community and organizational efficiency. While previous researchers have focused on how the efficiency of the dabbawala can be exported to other organizations or regions, they have not paid much attention to the downsides of the dabbawala operational model. Therefore, this research will explore how their community hiring practices have stunted their growth and provide recommendations how adoption of technology could aid in organizational growth to other cities needing healthier food alternatives.


This paper seeks to compare the organizational culture of McDonalds India and that of the Dabbawalas to determine organizational and managerial factors that have led to their success. The study will also explore factors inhibiting the Dabbawalas from expanding their operations and increasing profitability that would reduce their employee turnover problem and allow them to expand to other regions in the country. Due to the nature of the study, the paper will utilize a qualitative research design in collecting the data for analysis. It will utilize academic databases such as Proquest, Jstor, and Google Scholar to collect the data.

For this study, I chose a qualitative approach due to several compelling reasons. In the past, qualitative methods have proven successful in determining the meanings that people give to the events they experience (Denzin et al., 2000). The purpose of this study was to identify the factors that are responsible for the long-term success of the MTBSA, factors inhibiting their organizational growth, and suggesting recommendations on how they can use technology to improve their organizational outlook.

Precisely, a qualitative research approach is recommended when the nature of research requires exploration. Qualitative research studies usually begin with the questions what or how which enables the researcher to gain an in-depth understanding of the current situation relative to the topic of research. In this study, I explored the Dabbawala organization, documenting the factors that have facilitated their efficient supply chain system for over a century, and hypothesize that their abstinence from technology has hindered their growth opportunities.

Theoretical Methodology

This chapter will provide an understanding of methods that I will use to conduct my research. The first part will first acquaint the readers with the theoretical methodology. That is the research approach, design, philosophies, and strategy.

3.1 Pre-Understanding

According to Tuohy et al., (2013), pre-understanding refers to the knowledge that the researcher has about the organizations under study. A researcher can either have a positive or negative view about the organization if he/she is aware of the organization’s history, industry jargon, and key events. However, prior knowledge of the organization may lead to the researcher having a biased opinion with strong assumptions (Collis et al., 2013). Therefore, the fact that I will be studying both organizations from the outside results in me having a harder time in comprehending the undercurrents and additional inner problems in the organization. However, it is also advantageous in minimizing potential bias.

3.2 Research Philosophies

Every research study begins with the selection of a relevant research philosophy, which is composed of the important assumptions that the researcher has in conducting the study (Corbin et al., 2014). These assumptions define the researcher’s perspective regarding the acceptable knowledge that can be used in the study. Additionally, well-defined philosophies help to clarify the research methods to the readers.

3.2.1 Ontological Research

 Kennedy et al. (2013) define the purpose of ontological consideration as the explanation of a researcher’s point of view about a study. In ontological studies, there are two main branches of ontology, subjectivism, and objectivism. These two branches are fundamentally different; subjectivism argues that social phenomena are tightly women with the actions of individual social actors while objectivism argues that social organizations exist autonomously from social actors (Kennedy et al., 2013). This study’s research question and research purpose make the choice of subjectivism quite simple. I will adopt subjectivism as an ontological consideration when conducting this study. Subjectivism will enable me to gain an in-depth understanding of activities that result in changes in social phenomena. I will endeavor to have a comprehensive understanding of the current situation so as to complete the organizational big picture.

I will utilize Langley et al.’s (2013) work in connecting the subjectivist perspective with organizational processes and change. Langley et al. (2013) define ontologies as methods to understand the organization where the entity can be seen as a thing (in objectivism) or as a process (in subjectivism). Viewing an organization as an ongoing process has the advantage of allowing the researcher not only to acknowledge the existence of the entity but to also take into account the ongoing changes within the organization.

The selected subjectivist view is often termed as ‚Äėstrong‚Äô due to its exhaustive definition of an organization. However, while it allows for the consideration of additional influential factors, this point of view features increased complexity as compared to the objectivist view. Additionally, acknowledging the constant changes in an organization means that my research is limited to the current situation which is temporary.¬†