The city’s famous dabbawalas have changed their delivery model, in a manner of speaking. From January 1, they won’t just drop off tiffins; they’ll also offer fresh, home-style meals prepared by their wives.
“We are targeting young working couples who want homecooked food, but don’t have the time to make it,” says Subhash Talekar, general secretary of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association.
So far, the six sigma operators have stuck to picking up meals from customers’ home and delivering them still hot to their offices. Now, they’re offering to cook that lunch too. The weekly menus will comprise Maharashtrian and Gujarati fare, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options priced Rs 95 and Rs 110 a day respectively.
Only lunch will be offered, in keeping with the existing dabbawala model, seven days a week.
In addition to expanding their services, the initiative aims to boost the dabbawalas’ family incomes by offering employment to their wives. Most tiffincarriers currently earn Rs10,000 a month.
The idea, Talekar says, was first proposed nearly 10 years ago by his father, Gangaram, then general secretary of the Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier’s Association. “He passed away in 2014, and for the past year, we have been working to make his dream come true,” Talekar says.
Food will be prepared at a central kitchen in Parel, where 25 dabbawalas’ wives have been training since November.
The women are being trained and their operations overseen by the Hirkani Mahila Utkarsh Sanstha Mandal, a trust that works for the empowerment of women. A pilot project has already been supplying daily lunches to 25 families since Monday. “The dabbawalas had asked their customers to spread the word about this new service and 25 families signed up,” says Talekar. If you’d like to sign up for the ready lunches, call 97698-75454.