The ‘Economist’ last week published a feature on Mumbai’s dabbawalas. Some of the management schools of US including Harvard Business School have already done some case study on the operational marvels of the dabbawals. The process of dabbawalas evolved over a period and got perfected. The delivery errors confirm to six-sigma standard. And this is an example how a good management practice gets born and matures. It doesn’t require a formal education and conventional training taught in IIMs. Paul Goodman, a professor of organisational psychology at Carnegie Mellon University who has made a documentary on the dabbawalas. Prince Charles facilitated them. Every Indian can feel proud of the dabbawalas (images), who have become reputed enough with their stories researched and published all over the world.
“As the warrior king who defeated the Mughals and founded the Maratha Empire of Western India in the 17th century, Shivaji Bhosle is remembered as a tactical genius as well as a benevolent ruler. The direct descendants of his Malva-caste soldiers are also developing a reputation for organisational excellence. Using an elaborate system of colour-coded boxes to convey over 170,000 meals to their destinations each day, the 5,000-strong dabbawala collective has built up an extraordinary reputation for the speed and accuracy of its deliveries. Word of their legendary efficiency and almost flawless logistics is now spreading through the rarefied world of management consulting. Impressed by the dabbawalas’ “six-sigma” certified error rate-reportedly on the order of one mistake per 6m deliveries-management gurus and bosses are queuing up to find out how they do it.”
Recently I read another story in ‘Business Today’. It related to two brothers with no college education, their enterprise, Suguna Poultry Farm and its business model. It identifies farmers with requisite infrastructure (sheds, water supply and labour), supplies day-old chicks to farmers, provides required feed and medicines, ensures daily visits by company field staff to evaluate the health of the livestock. After six weeks, it weighs and buys the birds, and pays the farmers for growing the birds
Suguna Poultry Farm has spawned about 15,000 rural entrepreneurs across 10 states from whom it sources chicken and eggs. Suguna’s promoter brothers B. Soundararajan (Class 11) and G.B. Sundararajan (Class 12) might not have been to IIMs or for that matter any college, but have mastered the management practices, and know how to convert a crisis into an opportunity, how to benefit of forward and backward integration, and the importance of risk management.
Suguna claims to be the largest player in the Indian broiler market and fourth largest in the world in that segment. Suguna operates 35 hatcheries with an aggregate capacity of 350 million eggs per annum, has 132 “grandparent” and “parent” farms and 15,000 broiler farms*, and sells 8.5 lakh branded eggs a month. By 2013, Sugana foresee a network of 60,000 contract farmers across India and totally integrated facilities from feed mills to ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products.
* Big poultry players buy ‘grand paren’t stock and breed the parents. The eggs laid by parents are hatched and the day-old chicks are sent to broiler farm for growth and ultimate consumption as chicken meat. Some of the’parent’ farms are owned and rest are contracted. Grand parent farm is owned by the company.
Perhaps, this is the reason that the students from all branches of education, beit humanities or engineering, excel in management. In good days in HM, among the mangers, a gentleman had a Master degree in Sanskrit, and many had not even gone beyond Class X. However, all were excellent managers. And some were masters in problem solving of even technical issues. Education provides some basic knowledge, but one must use it intelligently to mange and innovate consistently to go ahead. Those who keep on learning and using the knowledge, win.