Dabbawala The Lunchbox Miracle

Documentary // ZDF / ARTE 2008, 43 min., HD

English Version, HD, 52 min.: "Dabbawala – The Lunchbox Miracle".

Prince Charles visited them. Richard Branson, the Virgin boss, was their guest. International software companies and management institutions are interested in the Dabbawalas of Mumbai -- A unique profession that only exists here in the former Bombay. In the metropolis of 20 million, 5000 Dabbawalas deliver 200,000 lunches - homemade cooking for Indian employees, prepared by their own wives. Indians are not prepared to compromise with regard to their food. They want to know who cooked it for them.

The meals contained in the so called Dabbas, travel through innumerable hands up to 70Km – on bicycles, trains, wooden carts and on heads. The path is set by a code made of numerals, letters and colours. Doubt as to the safe arrival of the food at its destination is in the face of the chaotic megacity conceivable but wrong. Virtually without error the Dabbawalas’ system works. It is a logistic masterpiece which Forbes Global Magazine awarded with the Six Sigma for quality. Only one in 16 million tins ever gets lost, even though most Dabbawalas are illiterate. The Dabbawalas believe that bringing food to people creates good Karma, therefore they feel obliged to their clients.

Their common religion and background fuses them together. Most of them come from the region around Poona about 150Km South East of Mumbai.

This is where Suresh Shivekar came from 22 years ago to build up a life for himself and his family. The film follows the 46 year old through the wildly chaotic metropolis Mumbai, in the footsteps of a logistic phenomenon that defies all western ideas of order.

The Dabbawalas, already 120 years in Mumbai, embody more than ever traditional and modern life in one. Up until today their method has hardly changed although Mumbai‘s population has grown 20 fold. How do they do it—to manage not to lose track in one of the biggest cities of the world? - Without computer or any other technical aids. Is the Dabbawalas system possibly not only a logistic but also a social phenomenon? - That even highly developed industrial countries can learn something from?

Writer and Director: Antje Christ
Camera: Martin Christ
Sound: Joachim Köhler
Editing: Jens Gronheid
Music: Karl-Heinz Blomann · Claas Hanson
Production: Antje Christ
Commissioning editor: Linde Dehner

Go back