October 2010


On Monday near Church Street, Mumbai I met one of my supply chain heroes. He is a member of a team that has been invited to Prince Charles wedding; lauded by Bill Clinton; followed by Sir Richard Branson and accorded the Six Sigma Award for their superlative delivery performance. One of the protagonists in Salman Rushdie’s novel Satanic verses, Gibreel Farishta, was born to a Dabbawallah and, TL would add another tribute describing them as a master class in a simply modal approach. So, there I was talking to Shaurya who had just finished delivering tiffin boxes to teachers in an International School. He was keen to try his English – he is doing a course at the moment “because many address can’t read without it.” We turned the corner and there they were maybe fifty Dabawallas interchanging tiffin boxes with their symbols and colour codes designed to be read by men who had little schooling.

Five fingers of one hand pack the supply chain punch

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Years ago I worked in a company called Irish Leathers in a place called Carrick-on-Suir in Ireland. I followed the process through from the livestock in the surrounding fields; the slaughter house; raw skin collection and then, the production of wet blue hides before the finishing process began. The colouring and plate machines would give the hides texture either to be sent off to agents for sale elsewhere or, to local workshops to make into bags, jackets or other fashion items. This week in India, I mapped the core process from end-to-end with someone from the industry in Tamil Nadu and, the parallels were clear. The process was the same but the circumstances for the industry in each place utterly different. Irish Leather, formerly known as Plunder & Pollack, is no more whilst Indian leather is gathering momentum to be a catalyst and a beacon industry transforming branding, operations, the environmental agenda and livelihoods in India and other Emerging and Developing economies.

The Indian Leather industry is vital for the Indian economy with its substantial export earnings and strong growth potential. Revenues have grown from $2,495 million in 2004-5 to $ 3,598 million in 2008-9 and, the industry employed 2.5 m people rising to an estimated 3.5 million this year – most of whom are in the highly fragmented primary processing and flaying phase. An estimated 75% of this production capacity is from small scale cottage and artisans – the informal sector; and this needs to be addressed in terms of skills and the financing of much needed technological and environmental improvements.     (more…)

So, what do you think of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi? It depends where you are in the world – better said, the Commonwealth. In the UK the press coverage was all about the bio-degradable running tracks and the poor standards of accommodation. Here in India talk has moved swiftly to the medals table though leaders in the major papers have focussed the ineffective and often corrupt management of this signature Event. In particular, management has been slated for failing to deal with the queues for tickets leaving stadia empty as the sporting events kicked off. And yet, just like an Indian Wedding, it was alright on the night and, who could fail to be impressed by the spectacle of the opening ceremony. Let’s move away from the media spotlight and explore the real losers in all of this – the Kirana stores and street hawkers of Delhi.

You can't buy what you can't see

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