You’ve heard about them, awed at the fact that they went down into the Harvard study, and probably seen them at the iconic Churchgate station around lunch hour all set with packs of hot food ready to be on the plate. A 130-year-old network that has served 200,000 lunches by bicycle every day, the pandemic was a spoke in the wheel in the operations of the ever-famous dabbawalas of Mumbai. But rise from the ashes, they did. Yes, offices are shut and yes, we’ve missed seeing them, but with SOCIAL partnering with the dabbawalas, you can now get them to deliver food at your doorstep! So much for missing them.
SOCIAL partners with the dabbawalas and we couldn’t be happier
The news couldn’t be more welcome. At a time when the pandemic has battered businesses and private offices remain shut, there was one particular service that faced the wrath of the lockdown. The dabbawalas of Mumbai have been the lifeline of the city’s offices, providing commercials and corporates as well as schools hot lunches.
With people now working from home, the delivery network was disrupted. This was when Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which runs some of the most popular dine-in outlets such as SOCIAL, Smoke House Deli and Salt Water Cafe stood up to the occasion. In this newest collaboration that has gotten Mumbaikars excited, the restaurant chain has partnered with the dabbawalas recruiting them as delivery partners.
SOCIAL collaborates with the dabbawalas: What set this off?
Interested in just how the popular restaurant giant decided upon this collaboration, we spoke to Mayank Bhatt, Business Head at SOCIAL. “While restaurants have been devastated by the lockdowns and subsequent drops in revenue over the past year, Mumbai’s dabbawalas have been tragically out of jobs thanks to office closures and suspended railway travel, leading to tiffin services becoming a thing of the past,” he says.
Bhatt goes on to emphasise the role that the dabbawalas play as the original backbones of Mumbai’s food delivery system and describes the collab as a ‘symbiotic partnership’ where both parties empower and enable each other over the next few months. He says the subscription-based meals of nutritious home-cooked food is a testament to the entire community coming together and doing their bit to lend a helping hand to those who need it.
What is the modus operandi of the project?
Will the dabbawalas travel on their iconic bicycles? Will they be identified by their famous attire? How does the project work? Yes, we were curious too, here is what you need to know:
The hotspots of dabbawala delivery:
“For this pilot, we choose our three key hotspots in the city so that we can cater to our customers from our three marquee brands - SOCIAL, Smoke House Deli & Salt Water Cafe,” says Bhatt. Orders from these restaurants in the Lower Parel, Bandra (West), and BKC areas will be fulfilled by the dabbawalas.
How do the dabbawalas receive the orders?
“The dabbawalas have been trained on how to use our tech-enabled platform,” Bhatt says that though initially, they were apprehensive about using it as they are used to using their own internalized system for delivery, the tech has been simplified for them. “They quickly adapted to it and have been doing a phenomenal job.”
Ghar Ka Khana at your doorstep
The restaurant chain is also using its kitchens to service the local community by launching a subscription-based meal service in Mumbai, bringing healthy home-cooked food right to your doorstep. “The meals are nutritious and packed with signature flavours, and delivered by the dabbawalas. The Ghar Ka Khana subscription meal packages from SOCIAL start at INR 6000++ per month and will be available across Khar, Vikhroli, Versova, and Lower Parel during the first rollout phase starting from 24th May 2021.”
What do the dabbawalas have to say?
The partnership is a two-way entity and we were interested in what the other side had to say about this. After a slump in business, they are thrilled to be back on ground doing what they do best. Ulhas Muke, President, Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust - part of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association - says, “When the first lockdown hit, it was the toughest time we’ve ever faced; our members were left with little to no money in their bank accounts. Although there are many restaurants and hotel chains in our city, we’ve only catered to office-goers at their workplace in the past.”
The world has had to adapt to the COVID norms and so have the dabbawalas. “Now that work from home has become the norm, it’s important to go where the customer is. We’re delighted to partner with Impresario Handmade Restaurants to help customers get fresh and delicious food delivered at home. We will provide Impresario and its customers with our unmatched efficiency, trust, and service and we’re sure the people of Mumbai will support us in this endeavour,” says Ulhas Muke.
Is SOCIAL happy with the response it has been receiving? Yes! They say. “The dabbawalas have been doing a phenomenal job. We are servicing around 600 and 1,000 deliveries on a daily basis via the dabbawalas.”
So go ahead and order in and let your fascination of seeing the dabbawalas back on their cycles, circling through town and in action once again come true.