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Mumbai’s dabbawallas hike rates

Mumbai, July 4 (IANS) Inflation is pinching Mumbai’s world-famous dabbawallas, who ferry lunch boxes all over the city with mind-boggling efficiency. As a result, the service charge has been hiked by Rs.50 per customer from July.

This is the second ‘unavoidable hike’ in two years – in 2008, the service charge was hiked by Rs.30, Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers’ Charitable Trust (NMTBSCT) president Raghunath Medge told IANS.

‘We shall request all the customers to bear with our predicament forcing us to hike our charges,’ Medge said, almost sounding apologetic.

Presently, the service is available to over 170,000 Mumbaikars for anything between Rs.350-500 per month per customer, depending on the distance commuted by suburban trains and the weight of the tiffin boxes.

It includes pick-up in the morning and returning the empty box to the customer’s home by late afternoon.

‘Our normal rates work out to barely Rs.10-15 per day per customer, ensuring door-to-door delivery of the home-cooked food to the office/schools, and the empty tiffins back home. Compare us with an ordinary city courier service which levies a similar charge for a single delivery,’ Medge said.

The tribe of 5,000 dabbawallas is renowned the world over for their efficiency and simple but highly effective management practices and Six Sigma ratings, many documentaries and a full-length Marathi movie dedicated to their work and lecture tours abroad. They even got an invitation to attend the wedding of Prince Charles some years ago.

The proceeds of the service are equally divided among the 5,000 ‘shareholders’ of the trust, and the amount comes to barely Rs.5,000-6,000 per head per month, Medge said.

He added that the dabbawallas work on barely 10-11 salaries per annum since the service becomes truncated during the vacations when many people don’t pay the monthly charges.

Medge said the service is pure entrepreneurial, without government subsides or any other benefits, no bonuses or overtime payments.

‘The prices of all essential commodities have shot up in the past few months, making it difficult for us to feed our families. We only hope we are not compelled to commit suicides like the poor farmers of Maharashtra,’ Medge said, urging customers’ cooperation for the hike.

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