Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Six Sigma Men!

TQM.. Six Sigma.. ISO 9001.. all these terms can hardly be imagined in the sub-urban, crowded trains of Mumbai, can they? But there is a set of people who make it possible.. They are the people now famously known as the "Mumbai Dabbawaalas".. I just learned today that their association is termed "Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers' Association".. As a B-school student, let me go with the acronym tradition and call them NMTBSA..

Going by the latest trend in all IIMs, our institute also arranged for a lecture by the famed dabbawaalas from Mumbai.. I must admit that I was quite skeptical about what significance such a lecture would have.. And whether its been unnecessarily hyped by everyone.. But after attending the session and especially seeing the documentary at the end, I would say that all Indians should atleast see how the system works.. It almost reflects a utopian world as far as I am concerned.. Which makes it even more special because such a thing has been in existence for almost 116 years now..

The kind of service these dabbawaalas provide is quite hard to imagine, given the circumstances they do it in.. Anyone who has been in a Mumbai local train knows what it takes to wrestle one's way to get any space on those trains.. For them to cover the entire length of Mumbai in those trains carrying those heavy loads, both on the western and central lines, and provide service with a zero error rate (well officially it is 1 error in 6 million) is simply mindboggling.. Again I would like to stress on the kind of environment they do it in.. Not a single dabbawaala is educated more than 8th standard.. Their average age is 52 years.. And many of them have to carry loads upto 75-80 kgs on their heads.. Their only dependence is on the Mumbai local train service which is very reliable as long as the weather gods don't intervene drastically.. The way they sort out and separate the 2,00,000 dabbas they handle every single day is quite amazing.. Not a single dabba gets misplaced or sent to the wrong destination.. The system is entirely manual and surprisingly, there is NO mistake ever made.. The confidence of the President and the Secretary of the association in their system was quite a revelation.. Why shouldn't they be, after all they are Six Sigma certified!! The secretary actually made fun of terms such as Logistics and Supply Chain Management saying that they are told they are good at it but he doesn't even know what they mean.. Being a so-called OR enthusiast myself, I was really amused by a lot of his comments..

All in all, I would say it was a very humbling experience for every one of us listening to the two gentlemen talk about an organization where every single employee is also a partner.. Everyone earns the same amount of money.. All the revenue generated is distributed equally among all the partners.. It reminded me of the word syndicalism used by Bertrand Russell in his writings.. When I say syndicalism, I am not referring to the Trade Union aspect of the philosophy; I am talking about the fact that every single person has an equal stake in the organization.. Such a system is very difficult to find and the Dabbawaalas are unique not only in that respect, but also the fact they have the most efficient system in the world.. Finally, I must thank our Operations professors for arranging such an interaction which gives people like me a different perspective to life altogether.. Life never ceases to throw its set of surprises, does it?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back on the road again!

So I am finally back after what seems like forever.. Have been missing blogging lately.. Was just waiting for some appropriate moment to resume.. And so today happens to be the auspicious occasion..

Well, the last few months have shown me how things can change very quickly in one's life.. Just 3 months back, I was sitting in Bangalore, in an air-conditioned office, working for a common goal in a project which seemed to be going on forever.. In fact, if I rewind back by 3 more months, I could well have been on a flight to Silicon Valley in the US of A.. But then as it happens, I had to take a crucial decision at that juncture and ended up refusing that offer for "greener" pastures in life.. So, after rounds of GDs and Interviews and nervously waiting for results, I found myself selected for the course on Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) in the Indian Institute of Management, Indore (IIM-I as it is more commonly known!)..

Its been a month and a half since I got here and I already have many experiences which will remain with me for a long time to come.. I had always heard so much about experiencing life in a B-school, but being here and actually being a part of everything is really exhilarating.. Sure, its a competitive world and everyone wishes to finish top one day.. But the different kind of people I have met here and most of what I have learnt so far is really intangible.. Whether it is the initial intro sessions, the late night parties, the theatre club performances, the World Cup matches in the audi, the birthday celebrations, the student body elections, the freshers' and talent night performances, the quizzes, the games, or the latest matki-phod competition, and so much more which I can keep writing about, it has been so much fun and at the same time, such a unique experience that it seems tough to believe that I have been here for not even 2 months.. Ohh, we do have classes too!! :P In fact, we are already more than half-way through this term.. But who wishes to write about acads on a blog when one's happy!!

I have been reading quite a bit about people writing their experiences in Infosys and I have made up my mind that I need to dedicate some space to Infy in my blog too.. But that needs to be a separate post.. For now, I'd just like to sign off saying that I am back blogging again.. with the determintaion to be more regular from now on..