In simple terms, Dabbawala is the one who carries the box. However it is not simple when we talk about the Dabbawala of Mumbai who carry and deliver freshly made food from customer’s home in a lunch box (Dabba) and deliver it to offices.
It is actually a highly specialized trade that has evolved in its current form over a century and has become integral to Mumbai’s culture. There are more than 5000 in number and deliver approximately 200,000 lunch boxes every day.
It had all started about 125 years back when a Parasi banker wanted to have home cooked food regularly in office and gave this responsibility to the first ever Dabbawala. Other people also liked the idea and the demand for Dabba delivery soared.
It was all informal and individual effort in the beginning, but visionary Mahadeo Havaji Bachche saw the opportunity and started the lunch delivery service. As the city grew, the demand for Dabba delivery grew too. Our forefathers had the vision to create the Dabba coding system that’s going on strong even today.
The Coding system evolved through various stages with time. In the beginning it was simple colour coding. Now Mumbai is a widely spread metro with 3 local train routes. Our coding has also evolved into alpha numeric characters.