4 Smart Money Lessons From Mumbai Dabbawalas

By BankBazaar | March 22, 2018

Mumbai’s dabbawalas have been serving up lessons in efficiency, management, leadership and excellence since time immemorial. When it comes to money, they could teach us some valuable financial lessons as well. Read on.

In the 1890s, a Parsi banker from Mumbai’s old district desired simple home-cooked lunch delivered to his office every day. So, he hired a young man to get his lunch box every afternoon.

Now, over the years, the one-man tiffin service has grown into a Rs. 50 crore industry, with around 5,000 delivery men carrying 2,00,000 lunch boxes daily for a minimal monthly fee of Rs. 450 a box. Amid high competition from online food delivery apps like Swiggy and Zomato, the dabbawala service is still indispensable.

Here are 4 financial lessons that we can draw from Mumbai’s dabbawalas:

Time Is Money

A typical day for a dabbawala usually begins at around 8 am, when they start collecting lunch boxes from various houses. After scurrying across the city in their bicycles, the lunch boxes are then perfectly organised at the nearest railway station for the next sweep of local dabbawalas to deliver the boxes on time.

Their work doesn’t end here! Once the lunch box has been successfully delivered, the entire process is repeated backwards and the boxes are then delivered back home in time. It is a nine-hour cycle that requires efficient time management.

Good time-management skills can do wonders for your finances too! For example, by simply paying your Credit Card balance in full every month before the due date, you can easily do away with the late fee and interest charges.

Looking for a Credit Card? Check your eligibility here.

Additional reading: BankBazaar’s 7 Best Credit Card Tips For 2018


Another important pillar of the dabbawala system is the discipline. Dressed in their traditional white outfits, around 5,000 dabbawalas deliver almost 200,000 lunch boxes every day without fail. They also received the six-sigma rating from Forbes Magazine in 1998 for their extraordinary record of only one error in 6 million transactions.

Likewise, financial discipline is the first step in keeping all your money woes at bay! Start with a simple and well-planned budget that should include your everyday spends like groceries, monthly newspaper bills, insurance premiums, loan EMIs and other essential and non-essential expenses.

Once you are done, make sure to stick to the plan and keep reviewing it at the end of every month. This will not only help you save more but also improve your Credit Score. Win-win!

You can check your Experian Credit Score for FREE here.

United We Stand 

Unity of the dabbawalas is another major factor in their longevity and success. The dabbawala service comprises of many small groups which are financially independent.  But despite internal competition, they all work together with great synchronisation towards the same goal to provide top-notch service.

So, if you are married or about to jump on the bandwagon, financial unity is one of the main ingredients to healthy finances and a ‘happily ever after’. As a couple, you need to take out time to sit together and identify each other’s short-term, mid-term and long-term financial plans. Then, work out a solution to reach those goals. This will help you make informed decisions and take advantage of the double-income flow.

Additional Reading: Dual-Income Families and Financial Planning

Back-Up Plan

Though there is absolutely no room for error in their service, if something unexpected intrudes the process, they are always well-prepared. For example, if a team member is not able to perform his work or falls sick, someone is always there to manage his task.

Emergencies can come unannounced- it could be something as simple as new tires for your car or a major health crisis. That’s why a back-up for your finances is very important! Going by the rule of thumb, an ideal emergency fund should consist of at least three to six months of your living expenses. Put this amount in a Savings Account or a Liquid Fund and you’re sorted!

Additional Reading: An Emergency Fund To Rescue Your Investments

There you have it! In case you are looking for a loan or Credit Card, there are quite a few options. Check your eligibility now.

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