Read an intriguing film review by the NYT about "The Lunchbox," an Indian film about an accidentally mis-delivered tiffin lunchbox that sparks a relationship between a lonely housewife and an aging widower. The trailer made me curious about the people who deliver the lunchboxes, and I found a Wiki article all about them! The delivery men are known as "dabbawallas" and this profession of delivering lunchboxes dates over 100 years old. For less than $3 USD a month, households can arrange for fresh, home-cooked lunchboxes to be picked up in the morning and delivered to offices and workplaces, on-time every day, for lunch. When emptied, they are delivered back to the residences. The whole process is amazingly accurate and works with astonishing efficiency despite the amount of manpower and physical transportation involved.
You'd think that with all the fast food and what must be an abundance of restaurants, Indian officeworkers would choose to eat out for lunch more, but it seems like they strongly prefer homecooking over anything else. The articles from the Wiki page are fairly old now, so I wonder how accurate this bit of culture still is, but it is pretty fascinating nevertheless.
The Guardian wrote an article about the system with this gem of a quote:
"The system owes much to the innate Indian genius for mathematics (it was an ancient Indian mathematician who invented the concept of zero). And it recently won international acclaim from an unlikely source, the normally arid American business magazine Forbes.
Forbes awarded the humble dabba-wallahs a 6 Sigma performance rating, a term used in quality assurance if the percentage of correctness is 99.9999999 or more. In other words, for every six million tiffins delivered, only one fails to arrive. This error rate means in effect that a tiffin goes astray only once every two months.
It is a rare day indeed when a customer's deep-fried rotis fail to turn up. The sigma rating was the same as that given to the top bluechip company Motorola - not bad considering that most dabba-wallahs are illiterate."
NYT article about "The Lunchbox": http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/movies/the-lunchbox-a-bollywood-anomaly-comes-to-america.html
"The Lunchbox" official movie page:http://www.sonyclassics.com/thelunchbox/home/#trailer
"A Bombay Lunchbox" by The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jun/24/worlddispatch.india
2007 NYT article on the dabbawalla industry:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/29/business/worldbusiness/29lunch.html