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The Dabbawallas Press Release | BACK TO INDEX


Program to be released nationally to public television stations beginning January 4, 2004

PITTSBURGH, PA - Every day 4,000 dabbawallas pick up more than 100,000 lunches at homes in Mumbai, India, and deliver the lunches to their places of work. The dabbawallas (or “box people”) sort the lunches multiple times and transport them by bicycle, cart and train. Paul S. Goodman of Carnegie Mellon University captures this more than 100-year-old work system in his documentary, “ The Dabbawallas.”
The program is being distributed by American Public Television and will be available to public television stations across the country beginning January 4, 2004. WQED Multimedia Pittsburgh is the presenting station for this Paul S. Goodman production.

Goodman, the Richard M. Cyert Professor of Organizational Psychology at Carnegie Mellon’s Graduate School of Industrial Administration, was astonished to learn just how efficient and reliable the dabbawallas’ operation is without the help of any of today’s technological or business tools.

“They have developed an extremely complex and highly reliable system of work with none of the technology or practices that the industrial world thinks is necessary. It is a compelling example of what we in developed countries can learn from other countries,” said Goodman.

Making the dabbawallas’ success even more impressive is the fact that Mumbai, India, formerly Bombay, is continually growing and becoming more congested. The complicated network of streets and look-a-like buildings makes it difficult for the city’s more than 16 million residents to get around. Yet the dabbawallas deliver lunches to the right person at the right time 96 percent of the time.

The dabbawallas have mastered their city and their business. They provide an inexpensive yet invaluable service to the Indian people for about 180 rupees or $4 per month. Many workers in India choose to comply with strict dietary guidelines dictated by their religion. Because the dietary guidelines are critical, Mumbai’s workers trust only those they know to prepare the food they eat. Others cannot afford to purchase a lunch, and most couldn’t carry a lunch if they wanted to because the commuter trains are so crowded there is no room to carry anything at all.

The dabbawallas’ delivery and pickup process mirrors what companies such as Federal Express strive for each day. However, the dabbawallas complete their work without computers, information technology or any current business practices. As the film unfolds, the viewer is exposed to unique forms of human and social ingenuity, set in the streets of Bombay. “They provide a different picture — a complicated system of working built around human ingenuity and supportive social arrangements that has long been absent from U.S. industry,” said Goodman.

Goodman has been researching people at work for more than 30 years. He has made numerous educational videos about such groups as string quartets, steelworkers, nurses and lobstermen in Maine. Goodman worked with an Indian producer, film crew and composer to produce “The Dabbawallas.” It took two years to produce.

For more information on the documentary, contact Paul Goodman at 412-268-2288 or For program release information, contact Keyola Panza at WQED Multimedia Pittsburgh.

Viewers should check local listings since programming schedules vary across the country.

WQED Multimedia Pittsburgh provides educational, cultural and informational programming, products and services for local and national audiences. WQED Multimedia Pittsburgh is Telling America’s Stories with the All-American Documentaries, American Soundtrack, American Classics and America’s Home Cooking series. It is the parent company of WQED tv13, WQED fm89.3, WQEJ fm89.7/Johnstown, a publishing division that includes the new PITTSBURGH magazine, local and national television and radio productions, and the WQED Education Resource Center.

About American Public Television: For 41 years, American Public Television (APT) has been a major source of programming for the nation's public television stations. APT has more than 10,000 hours of available programming including Discovering the Real World of Harry Potter, Globe Trekker, Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World, Nightly Business Report, Rick Steves' Europe, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Ballykissangel, Brian Jacques' Redwall and The Three Tenors Christmas. APT is known for identifying innovative programs and developing creative distribution techniques for producers. In four decades, it has established a tradition of providing public television stations nationwide with program choices that enable them to strengthen and customize their schedules. Press should contact Donna Hardwick at 617-338-4455 ext.129 or via email to For more information about APT's programs and services, log on to


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