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Mumbais Dabawalahs

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As Annie Leonard has pointed out in her ‘The Story of Stuff’ (2007), 51 percent of the world’s largest economies are those of corporations (Leonard, 3). The case study of the Mumbai Dabawalah’s tiffin delivery service is an excellent example of human endeavour in action. Achieving accurate and fast delivery to over 200,000 hungry office workers every day is no small feat- and that too in an extremely fast turnaround time of twenty seconds of stoppage by the trains-to collection and reversal of the entire process after the lunch break, to reach the dabba home before the worker arrives at the end of the day- is nothing short of phenomenal. With just a code to guide them, the delivery is as unerring as Six Sigma or one defect in a million deliveries (Mullins, 326).
When it comes to a question of how to attract and retain the best staff, we have to look at the various theories of motivation proposed by different thinkers and writers over the ages. In ancient times, management used the carrot and stick approach or what McGregor calls Theory X and Theory Y (McGregor, 1960) to get the desired results within the organization-some firms still do. Motivation is anything that induces one to perform or do something. Most basic of these is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, in which he has defined human needs as being in a ladder or hierarchy from the lowest to the highest points- or from the basic physiological needs of food, clothing and shelter to the higher needs for safety and security, further to esteem needs and ending at the point of self actualization needs, where man has achieved his life purpose through his actions and work (Mullins, 257). Very few of us are fortunate enough to realize this in our lifetimes. Herzberg gives his Two Factor or Hygiene Theory (Mullins, 261) as an explanation on how and what motivates workers based on an actual field experiment that he conducted. He concluded that there were a group of satisfiers and dissatisfiers in every work environment- which could be anything from strict and unyielding work policies or the lack of management attention to the needs of the workers on the negative side, to a fair and equitable wage and hygienic conditions that took into account the health and safety of the workers on the positive side.