Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Factor Substitution: the Tiffin of Mumbai

Tiffins are lunch carriers. They pick up lunches from people's homes and deliver the lunches to the people at work. And they do so with great efficiency and accuracy.

Mumbai has an estimated 5,000 tiffin carriers - locally known as dabbawallahs- who deliver about 175,000 lunch boxes daily in a century-old tradition. ...

The dabbawallahs collect lunch boxes from the suburban homes of nearly 200,000 customers and deliver them at their offices and factories at lunchtime.

A unique tracking system ensures that all the lunch boxes reach their rightful owners in time, earning a rating of 99.99% for precision and accuracy from Forbes magazine.
BrianF, who sent this to me, suggests that with that degree of accuracy, the British Royal Mails could be in serious danger from their competition now that the UK postal service monopoly has been eliminated.

How much do you think the dabbawallahs earn?
The tiffin carriers typically earn anything between $80 and $95 a month.
This doesn't sound like much; but if it takes two hours each to pick up and deliver the lunches for twenty work days per month, that would amount to $2/hour. Not great in North America, but not bad, either, for Mumbai. And certainly low enough to explain why the occupation still exists (in lieu of the company cafeteria).
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