[Jawed Khurshid]

Mumbai: They no longer crave for desi fare – dal, chapatis and rice. Rather, the GenX has developed craze for junk foods and snacks, their outlets mushrooming everywhere in the city mock at poor dabbawalas who are worst affected by these new entrants.

The business of the famed dabbawalas who deliver over two-lakh lunch boxes a day to Mumbaikars is registering steep fall, observes a management consultant. Their business has become stagnant as very few new customers are enrolled as their regular clients. However, the 120-year old lunch suppliers have managed to prevent their old customer base from shrinking. This is ascribed to the changing food habits of the people.

Many people blame that the junk foods that seduce the youngsters who prefer these over homemade lunch and the mass exodus of Mumbaikars to other cities across the country and overseas.

Besides, in-house eateries and restarunts established by large corporates and factories have also contributed to the stagnation in the growth of clients for the dabbawalas, known as the masters of supply chain management for their precision work in reaching the food in time to the office-goers.

However, the fidelity of over two lakh old customers served by 5,000 plus dabbawalas remains unaltered.

Quite impressively, the dabbawalas in their 120-year old chequered history has neither witnessed a single strike nor closure of activities be it heavy rains or when terror struck the city. The only exception to this was when they struck work expressing solidarity with Anna Hazare’s anti-graft movement in August this year.

Ironically, over 25 per cent of them are uneducated. But they do not shirk their responsibility, which has earned them praise from the likes of Prince Charles.

They are teetotalers and most of them do not smoke or consume non-vegetarian food. Most of them have recently evinced interest to learn other languages and even want to become computer literates.

The scheme of lunch box distribution and return of empty boxes accurately before evening cannot be replicated in other cities.

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