Web Icons and Cognitive Dissonance

According to wikipedia,

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.

In simpler terms, it means, a visualization that is used to mean something is used to trick your mind into agreeing to something which is exactly the opposite. I found a perfect example today morning, and hence this post.

2015-04-24 06_39_27-airtel

See the battery icon on the far left. What does that signify? Does that not trick your mind into believing that your battery is running low? Whatever you are being measured and told, it means you are running out of that quantity. In this case, it is the amount of high speed bandwidth that I have remaining in this month (before I slip into FUP hell).

But look at the numbers. I actually have enough. Well, more than enough. I have 64 GB out of my 80 GB quota. This is the airtel smartbytes page where airtel wants you to buy bandwidth packs to replenish your diminishing high speed bandwidth.

This, my friends, is cognitive dissonance.

Kumbakonam – Summer of 2015 – Temple Trip 1

Reached Kumbakonam on Saturday morning (Bangalore-Mayiladuthurai Express).

Saturday evening started around 5PM. Original idea was to do Thiruppurambiyam, Eenambur, and Kottaiyur – all within a few km from each other. Kottaiyur is closest to Kumbakonam. Then comes Eenambur and then Thiruppurambiyam. Two temples on my stretch list was Thiruvaikaavoor and Thiruvijayamangai.

I did Thiruppurambiyam first and then for some reason decided to do Thiruvaikkavoor and Thiruvijayamangai on that day. One thought I had in mind was Kottaiyur and Eenambur are relatively closer to Kumbakonam and can be done yet another day.

IMAG0131
                                                                          Thiruppurambiyam

 

IMAG0133
                                                                         Thiruppurambiyam

 

Thiruvaikavoor
                                                                               Thiruvaikavoor
Thiruvijayamangai
                                                                Thiruvijayamangai

Sunday morning decided to Thirupanandaal with my brother in law. He had gone to college here. Nice large temple. Well maintained. It has its own aadheenam – so not very surprising.

Thirupanandaal
                                                                Thirupanandaal
Thirupanandaal
                                                                            Thirupanandaal

On the way back from Thirupanandaal, my brother in law was mentioning about a temple which had been recently built dedicated only to the 63 nayanmaars. Interesting small temple with just utsavars for the 63 saints.

63 Nayanmaar temple
                                                                   63 Nayanmaar temple

So that ended my first weekend trip in the Summer of 2015. More coming up in the weekend of April 25.

 

Twitter Trends – UI Change?

A little while ago, I wrote a post on the awesome new feature in twitter web UI, the quote-and-RT. I am loving it But before the euphoria died down, I just noticed that, twitter has made yet another UI (or maybe trying out on a subset population). When I log in to twitter today morning, I see a dense trends column on the left side of my screen.

2015-04-23 10_17_24-(8) Twitter

To be honest, I do not remember where the trends column used to be before – I rarely look at what is trending. But today seemed to be different. I noticed it because it is crowded and ugly. It is crowded because of the extra text below the actual hashtag. It distracts me from my timeline.

The fact that I never used to look at the trends (and hence did not let it affect/influence) my conversations on the timeline, makes it even harder for me now.

There is definitely a cognitive distraction that is happening here and I am not liking it. Are any of my readers seeing this as well? Are you OK with this?

And deep inside me, there is one more fear in me. Was this a means to drive people towards trending phrases – which could potentially be sponsored. If so, this is nothing short of discrete native advertising. Not that I am saying it is wrong to do advertising (twitter is a publicly listed company after all, and it has to make money), but hopefully not at the cost of distracted users. The last time something like that happened to me was when there used to be these blinking bling pop-up ads on webpages.

Now, has someone written an extension to hide the trends column?

Update: Ok, I found a way to get it back to normal. Click on the ‘Change’  next to the trends. It will ask you for which city you want trends for. Type in your location. There is a button called “Tailored Trends”. Do not click on that button, and just click Done. It will go back to a shorter trends column with just hashtags. Phew.

Ecommerce kiosks

I had toyed with this idea earlier when I wrote the “Ideas for Bigbasket” post. The idea then was to have these internet enabled kiosks where folks could order stuff from big basket and perhaps even collect stuff from these kiosks/counters. Fundamental premise at that time was this was still for the yuppie crowd, but for those who do not want to sit on a computer and order, and most definitely do not want to wait at home for an order to arrive.

More recently, on reading this article about Flipkart going fully the app way (and most likely closing the flipkart.com route), this idea popped back into my mind. Kiosks as I mention above are probably best served using an android interface, and what better news than an ecommerce provider going fully the app route. (Sure you could do this even if it was not fully the app-route, but this was what caught my attention!).

So, let me try and use my static brain a little here, this fine tuesday morning, to see if I can come with a feature set for a kiosk like this.

1. Kiosks – An ATM like machine with only the ecommerce app loaded on to the screen, where customers can order. There could be one or many depending on the traffic the place sees. This would have to be a secure room such as those found for ATMs. Solid power backup and reliable internet connection would have to be a must. The kiosk must have the capability to be open 24 hours. This gives access for someone to pickup their order even late at night.

2. Positioning of kiosk My thinking has changed since my Bigbasket post. I think this kiosk can be anywhere and everywhere. It just needs to be high traffic. In a place like Bangalore, it could be in the BDA complexes. It could be in the MTC bus depots (like the T.Nagar Depot) in Chennai. It could be in the minimarkets (like Brahmaputra market – Sec 29) in Noida. It could be the megamarkets (such as Sarojini nagar Market) in Delhi. Well, these are the places I have lived for significant periods of time, but you get my drift. This is no longer for the yuppie crowd.

3. Manned vs unmanned kiosks: There could be manned kiosks where registrations can be facilitated by a personnel. These manned kiosks could potentially also take cash payments. Unmanned kiosks would have no personnel and could only be used order and take delivery of items using debit/credit cards. Unmanned kiosks could be 24 hours but manner kiosks could be open for a limited time. No special training for personnel would be required, since a current delivery logistics person could very well be reused to man this job- since the job function is exactly the same – except he does not go door to door, but deliver at a single point.

4. Access and payments would have to be through a card facilitated through the ecommerce company and potentially a bank. These cards could be applied for either online or through a help person sitting in the kiosks. These cards could be either preloaded debit cards or credit cards. Bank faciliated cards would take off a liability from the ecommerce company and help greatly on processing payments. Top up on cards can potentially be made easier with top-up cards similar to the pre-paid phone cards that are very popular now.

5. Pickup The access card could be used to unlock a locker, where orders can be picked up. Perishables have a timeline before which one needs to pick the order up. SMS alerts could be set up for locker opening and closing and when the order is available in the locker for pickup. This locker concept has already been tried out in the US by Amazon and is technically feasible. I do not know how successful the experiment was, but cultural significance matter and we cannot rule out it not working here.

6. Ordering would be easy. The card would authenticate them. They browse and choose the product they want to order. If the pickup location is a manned kiosk, COD would be a possibility, else, it would have to be credit/debit card payments.  The existing UX for the app could very well be reused. The delivery location however could have a default location, which is the kiosk location itself. The customer can choose to order here and deliver elsewhere as well.

Advantages to the ecommerce company:

1. Logistics is simplified to a great extent. It can be potentially much faster, since there just needs to be one trip from the motherhub of a city to the kiosk location. Cost reduces because of this simplification as well.

2. Reach is significantly expanded. People who do not have a stable internet connection at home, or a smart phone with an internet connection can easily order stuff off the web now.

Disadvantages to the ecommerce company:

1. There is one more entity that needs to be managed now – the kiosks.

2. There is always a risk of vandalism and pilferage. This needs to be managed carefully.

Advantages to consumer:

1. Biggest advantage to the user would be in the delivery segment. He does not need to be at home to receive the package. He can go to the kiosk on his way home and pick it up on the go. The yuppie consumer would probably still be using this phone or web to order, but would probably use this delivery mechanism for ease of pickup.

2. For a not-so-yuppie consumer, this could mean, he could order something off the web without using up his bandwidth on his phone or broadband. He could also do this at a location which he frequents daily (such as a bus stop).

3. For the masses, the reach would be huge. Now a much larger section of society would have universal access to anything they want to buy. Until now, the restriction for a large section of our society is to buy whatever is available in the store that is closest to where they live. If it is not available there, then it is not available at all. This could change all that.

Disadvantages to consumer:

1. The only disadvantages that I could probably think off here is adding yet another card for access to this kiosk, and potentially a long line that is waiting for pickup. But these could be easily worked around by introducing swift and efficient workflows.

 

 

Twitter: Quote and RT

Am I late to the party, or is this really new? One major headache that I used to have is to quote and RT on twitter-on-the-web. It has been there on the android native twitter client, but not on the web. I know quite a few folks who use other twitter desktop clients, just for this functionality.

2015-04-20 10_32_35-Twitter

It was a pleasant surprise to see this over the weekend. Thank you Twitter.

And what more, there is a bonus too. Your quote gets 140 characters. Yes, over and above what the original tweet was. Is this awesome or what? In earlier times, there were twitter guidelines to use lesser number of characters in a tweet (<140), so that people can RT you and write something. Now that is gone. It is a win-win for the original tweeter and the one who RTs.

Now that is what I call a UX win.

You lost me, Faasos

Faasos was one restaurant chain which I really wanted to succeed (with me!). I do not really care for it to succeed for everybody. These things are very individual. I loved their wraps the first time I tried them a year or two ago. They were in a much smaller scale. Their phone ordering was good. Their packaging was pretty damned good. Neat small rectangular cardboard boxes the size of the wraps, so that they stay in shape. Then they brought online ordering. They brought an app. Their messaging was funky.

They had it all going for them (for me!)  except for the key ingredient that I deeply care for – service. The first thing you notice when you order online, which seemed to be a flawless workflow was that, after you confirm your order, a message appears in the last screen that, the 20 minute guarantee does not hold good for online orders. Well, that is cheating in my regards, if you tell me that, after I have submitted the order.

Ok. Most phone orders that I place, do not have any guarantees, except for Dominos. So if it is not 20 minutes, I thought it would be 30-40 minutes. I was willing to wait.

I ordered, and got an SMS confirmation stating which store my order had gone to. It was amusing because there is a store (Koramangala Sonyworld) which is way nearer than the store that it was allocated to (Koramangala JNC). I didnt think too much about it because the further store was still slightly less than 2km.

40 minutes pass. I get hungry. I tweet out to @faasos asking for status. I get a “We are looking into asap” response message.

I decide to go back to the webpage. There is a nice track order section in the webpage, which asks for my order number. Hmm. Now where do I get that. The confirmation SMS did not have that. So I cannot track now either.

It is now an hour and I am getting hungrier. So I decide to call the store. The store goes into a dull “All customers are busy. Please hold the line” message for 4 minutes. I cut and call again. I hold 6 minutes. Same treatment.

I go back to the webpage to see if there is any other alternate contact number. Nothing zilch. Meanwhile, I have started tweeting my discontent. No response at all.

It is hour and 20 minutes and I give @Faasos 10 minutes time on twitter after which I would send back the order.

10 minutes later, I pick up my wallet and phone and leave the house to go somewhere and eat. I meet the delivery guy sauntering in near the gate of my complex. He claims that he rushed here in 5 minutes. I send him back. I tell him, I have nothing against him, but this is something to voice my displeasure at the company. I also show him the SMS that I received an hour and half ago, so that he can go and show it to his bosses.

The surprising thing is, a year ago, I had exactly the same thing happened to me. Secretly, I was wishing they had improved. I guess not. And now, I have lost faith completely.

 

Where I dissect the MastKalandar Website/Branding Update

Yesterday I saw an FB post and a tweet pointing to something called the MKDabbawala. I was intrigued. It had the same branding colors thankfully of yellow and orange and the same MK letters in the same font. So atleast I thought, it was the same brand.

  • But What is that tiffin carrier doing in the logo? Are they pivoting? They are moving away from restaurant style business to regular home delivery, or something similar? These were the thoughts that were going through my mind.

And then I went to their website. First look, well, it looked better than what it looked before. Fresh, clean start. I started poking around.

mk1

  • The first dissonance hit me right away. On the masthead was both the new logo and the old one. Uh. What? And then I saw the small text “Powered by”. So, they were not pivoting by adding a new feature. I guessed that, other than the restaurant service, they were probably introducing a new tiffin carrier service.
  • But then, why is the new service such a prominent part of the masthead and on the main page.
  • Fine, I went along. Ok, so my next thought was, they are rebranding into ‘ordinary food’ (which is probably delivery only and in a tiffin carrier?) and ‘special food; (probably only in restaurants, but perhaps delivery too). Fair enough. I know several people who eat regularly at MK.
  • Awright, keep moving, keep moving. Lets have what they have on offer. The ‘difference’ between these two foods are (and yes, they are putting two things side by side, which by cognitive theory means, they are comparing. Or, arnt they?)

mk2

 

  • Menu on the dabba thing changes very day. Nice. Oh it is super fast delivery – faster than normal?. And I thought the traditional flavors thing was a common thing across all MK dishes. We will let that slip. Perhaps the right hand column has more exotic stuff.
  • Wide range of North Indian food and memories of home –  Hmm. OK. Again I thought was across the board. Every dish made to order. So the dabba things are pre-prepared? What?
  • Lets move on to how to order.

mk3

 

  • So the dabba is delivery and hence can be ordered by app or website. And the other ‘regular’ or ‘exotic’ stuff (I cant make up my mind), you can either get it delivered or eat in the restaurant. Fair enough. I can wrap my mind around that.
  • Let us try ordering some tiffin carrier food. I clicked on the left card.
  • And a new tab opened. Firstly, I am not a big fan of you opening tabs for me. Show it to me on the same page. In 2 minutes flat on perusing your webpage, this was what my tabs was like. I have enough tabs that I open, and I dont want three more.

mk4

  • I like the high level look and feel of this page when it opens. It shows “Aaj ka dabba” – which is for non-hindi-speakers, “Todays dabba” or “Todays selection”. I would not harp on the Hindi, because Mast Kalandar’s target audience has always been North Indians living in South India. Let us not make a pretense out of it. And I see nothing wrong in it. It is a large market, and they are focused.
  • There are 6 things in todays dabba, where I can choose from. The mouse-overs explain the dishes. I have a minor problem with the text. I think it should be more explanatory. Do not say, bite into parathas. I want to know whether there is going to be one paratha or two. I want to order here. Same goes for the rest of the dishes as well. The only thing that had count was the laddoo. When I read the description, I want the text to help me decide whether I can finish the dish or not, if I am hungry enough for it or not.
  • Also, please make the page responsive (get the target screen-size and resize with respect to that – yes, it can be done). THere are six dishes and I still need to scroll down just a bit  because the last row is only 80% displayed. Typically this UX behavior is only reserved if you have more stuff coming below. There is one unnecessary scroll down that was waster.

mk5

  • So I click on an Order button. It asks me for City and area. Currently it is only Bangalore and Koramangala. It is 6:30 in the morning here, as I write this, and it nicely says that the restaurant is closed now, but I can pre-order. Nice touch.

mk6

mk7

 

  • I click on pre-order, and I am presented with the daily menu. Nice and clean. I like the fact, you see the cart in the same screen. The only minor nit that I have is the plus (+) sign in a square. Traditionally this is reserved for an expander. So you might have people clicking on it to see if there is more text on the menu item. For this, typically you may want to use the “+” within a circle.
  • And where did this green and yellow come from? So far away from your brand colors. It is definitely a bit jarring at first glance.
  • Dear webdeveloper who did the order details page, there must be a better way to validate if the person has ordered something or not, than this:

mk8

  • So I chose something and clicked on ‘Order. There are a couple of things that I really like in this next screen.

mk9

 

  • I love it that you can log-in or order as a guest. Love it that you can order for now, or for later. I guess this is inspiration from the many taxi-apps that we have these days. And wow, I can order upto 2-3 days in advance. Nice. I don’t think anyone else has this. You should market the hell out of this feature. It is now so hidden in there.
  • The tool tips make no sense at all. And I cannot figure out which field is mandatory and which is not.

mk10

 

  • And aaaargh, the scrolling. Please, make the page responsive. I do not want to scroll for 2 more lines. There is so much white space that you can utilize here, and yet look clean.
  • I fill in some junk in some of the boxes and hit continue. And then it tells me the mandatory fields. There is now a red ‘i’ in the two more boxes, which never existed before.

 

 

mk12

  • The form validation is all messed up. I tried giving various wrong combinations, and it always pointed to the wrong fields and kept saying “Please enter all fields”. Not very helpful, nor accurate.
  • I like the “Bring change for ” feature. It could be a little more explanatory though. And if you are going to have only COD, why have a step called “Payment Options”. If you are going to have more payment options coming up, say so (More Payment options coming up).
  • And hey, why cannot I pay using loyalty points? You have my log in details.
  • And whoa, I did something wrong, back button or something, and I cannot find my cart now. No option to go back to my cart? Where is the options icon now? I just noticed it is not present in the menu. And when I go back to the main menu, I still do not see a view cart button anywhere. Ok. Big Bummer here.
  • Ok. I now have to click on one of the Order Now buttons in the menu to get to the cart.
  • I am now officially done with the Daily dabba. And I still fully cannot wrap my head around the ‘dabba’ concept. Nothing in my experience above seems to indicate it is anything new. I do not see a tiffin carrier service here at all. No repetitive ordering/monthly payment option. It is a smaller menu.

Let us get to the “Full Menu”. You can get to the full menu either from the dabba page or from the main page. This is fair, because I may find the dabba menu too restrictive and I want to see more. (And please do not put Aur Dikhao, please please).

  • I click on the full menu (or the right card on the main page) and I see this.

mk14

 

  • The three dots show me that there are three images that you are cycling through. Ok. But should you not be cycling them yourself? A marquee scroll plug-in if you will? I should not have to do search for the small ‘white’ right/left arrow to go see the next image. And, in a good UX page, the arrow buttons are never always visible, they come up when you mouse over to that area.
  • Also every one of your three images spills over to your left. You have so much space left, why cut your images. Alignment problems I think.
  • I thought you only had types of menus – “Aaj ka dabba” and “Full menu”. What is the express menu? Where did that pop up? Is that the same as the dabba menu?
  • Ok, I want to see the menu. I keep searching, menu, menu, menu .. where are you menu … cmon out kitty …
  • What! You need to click on Order now, and only then can you see the menu? Oh cmon, MastK, you can do better than that. This is almost real-estate agent tactics. “Nahin Sir, Cant get the keys to the flat unless you commit.”
  • Ok, I stumble past the Order Now.
  • I now have to give my city and location again, else, you wont show me the menu.

mk16

 

  • Ok. Nice and clean, again. Same feedback about the plus in the square though.
  • Also, my preference – if you are going to showing categories, show only the items in the highlighted category in the second column.
  • Have another item called “Show me All” and show all the items there. Again, my cognitive dissonance may be different from yours.
  • I see the dissonating green color permeating here as well. Whats up with the new brand color?
  • No pictures for these items? If you can show pictures for your dabba menu, why not atleast a mouse-hover or a picture icon, where I can click and see what I want to get? A Bengali person might want to see how the Litti Chokha is, right? You may want to think about that.
  • And what is this “HD” acronym that I see everywhere in the menu?
  • I think there is spacing issues in your menu css. The first bits are fine.

mk17

  • But then when you go down to the ala carte items, the spacing seems to have gone out of whack (too much white space in my opinion). The screen itself is a contained screen. Clicking on the arrow

mk18

 

  • Also what is this upwards facing green arrow. I clicked and understood that it is “Scroll up to top.” In some pages, it makes sense. I still do not think that it is very intuitive. There are other established ways to do that.
  • There are pages with the green arrow, that do not need it – like the payments page. The page itself is a contained page. When I click the arrow, it just bumps me up a couple of lines.

mk19_1

 

  • There was just one more thing that I wanted to test. The more options menu in the main page. Firstly, this should be everywhere – in every page. Secondly, please add a “My Cart” option here.

mk24

 

  • Order online takes you through all of the above stuff I spoke about.
  • The Food love story and the Chefs corner is fine – but very sparsely populated.
  • I clicked on Store Locator. And that is when I realized MastKalandar had only one store in India, in Koramangala, Bangalore.

mk25

 

  • Guys – if the page is not finished yet, put a “beta sticker” on it. Or atleast, say “In construction”. Cmon. This is so not done.
  • And what the heck is the feedback form doing in the Locate Us page?
  • And I did not expect much from the Contact Us page, either and it did not disappoint.

mk26

  • I do not know about you, but I cannot figure this one out. Ok. You are giving me your corporate address and phone and email address. And a “Get Directions” to your Corporate office. Really?
  • And is that a feedback form to the right? You should put a sub label tag on it – “Write to us” or something like that.

In summary:

  • Noble effort to try and change the previous website (which sucked big time). New cleaner page. Several nice new features. There are UX nits that I have highlighted above. Sincere advise to the web-guys. If you are not done testing the website, please do not release it. Or put a beta sticker on it. Or put a “Under construction” sign somewhere.
  • More importantly, I think the branding theme needs to be fixed. This Dabba thing is too confusing. It seems to be deviating from what you are. Just call it express (or daily menu) and full menu. Too much shock to the consumer is also not good.
  • I just noticed one more thing. And perhaps this could perhaps be the most important non-technical non-UX thing in this post. There are 4 branding perspectives you are confusing the user with here.

mk20

mk21

mk22

mk23

 

  • In branding, logos, fonts, taglines/bylines are sacred.

 

 

On adapting successful UX methods

I notice User Experience (UX) differences and how they affect my productivity. I love products who focus on great UX. I love products who continually evolve their UX to become better and better. You know what I love even more – products who recognize good UX behaviors and adapt it to their own. And I recently came across a fine example of the latter – Twitter.

Screenshot_2015-04-16-11-37-48

This is the android twitter app. Do you see the “New Tweets” button at the top. This is very new. Facebook has had this for ages (it is called “New Stories” and it the button has a more oval structure to it). Clicking on the “New Tweets” button lets you know that there are new tweets and that you can click on that to scroll up to the latest tweets. This also saves you a pull down gesture, which is kind-of hard to do if you are holding and operating your phone with one hand (which is a pretty common use case).

My principal point here is that, if you recognize a good UX mechanism, it is my personal believe that, there is nothing wrong in adapting the mechanism to your product (unless it is patented ofcourse). It helps standardize UX across classes of apps. There is also a sense of sharing between the companies. I am sure FB spent quite a bit of UX effort coming up with their equivalent.

Request: As always, I have one request, which I am sure Twitter will not see, but that is fine, I will indulge myself. I would love to see the “New Tweets” button enhanced with the number of new tweets  – example – “132 New Tweets”. Twitter has the underlying algorithms for this, since it is present in their webapp.

Aur Dikhao – Bordering on Linguistic Chauvinism?

I recently noticed something awkward when I was searching for a product in amazon.in. I had searched for USB hubs and when I scrolled down to the bottom of the list, I saw this:

aurdikhao

As much as a nationalist that I am, as much as I am pragmatic to think a common language of communication is a good idea, I feel that this would go against the grain for a significant population of online India.

While the fact that Hindi is India’s national language itself is a contentious issue, I cannot imagine, how an online market place platform such as amazon can generalize and use a non-English phrase in a website which is mostly English otherwise.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not an anti-Hindi person, while most people who have read my name and figured out that I am from South India, have already stereotyped/judged me. I am proud of the fact that there is atleast one incident in a month, where a colleague/acquaintance mistakes me for a “North Indian”. Yes, I speak fairly good colloquial hindi.

Getting back to the issue at hand, I am wondering what the Program Manager, who was handling this campaign was thinking. Hindi is one of several tens of languages in India. Was there an intent to do some data mining and show this Hindi term only for some demographics? Or was it for all? I have worked in an online search entity before, and I know you can do magic like that. In a country like India, linguistic patriotism runs deep in the blood – to the extent, that the first partitioning of the states was done on the basis of language spoken.

In India (as in other areas such as Switzerland), it is not a question of whether a user understands the meaning of “Aur Dikhao”. The user would know the meaning and still pretend not know and judge the portal for being linguistically chauvinistic.

Amazon, please be inclusive and remove this abomination of an anomaly. If you really wish to do this, translate the entire damn page into Hindi. And while you are it, translate it also into Tamizh, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Punjabi, Assamese, and the two dozen more ‘predominant’ languages of India.

On Flipkart and Dabbawalas

I read an article today that Flipkart is beginning to work with the famous Dabbawalas of Mumbai for last mile delivery. The efficiency of these tiffin box carriers of Mumbai has been lauded so much that there is even an Harvard Business Review Case Study on them. Much has been written about these men who wear the white cotton kurtas and ensure hot food from homes reach office goers at the perfect time. In other words, it is a classic example of a supply chain model which has been perfected over the years.

So, now on to todays news of Flipkart and their tie-up with the dabbawalas. Apparently at this moment in time, this is in pilot, and a group of dabbawalas are being trained for delivery. Initially they would only be handling orders that are already paid for (would not be handling COD).

This is a pretty innovative thing that Flipkart is getting into. I see several areas where both Flipkart and the dabbawalas can mutually benefit from such a tie-up.

Additional income for the dabbawalas: This is probably the one that bubbles up first. The dabbawalas current schedule mostly works in 2 spikes. One spike to delivery the dabbas from home to offices, and the other to collect the dabbas back from the offices and deliver it back to home. The other times are pretty much open to them to earn additional income.

Additional delivery people for Flipkart: They can choose to be the ‘uber’ of delivery-men. Let me elaborate here. When dabbawalas have their spike time done, and they are free, they can intimate to flipkart, that they are free and for how long. If the logistics and supply chain software is able to allot him a ‘ride’ or a ‘job’ that can be executed within that time, and he is comfortable with it, he can pick it up, and deliver it. This creates an additional pool of delivery people for flipkart. (Another pilot is happening in Bangalore with Flipkart trying a crowd-sourced delivery model). 

Processes knowledge sharing: The dabbawalas have perfected the art of sorting, colour-coding, and routing, within a congested city like Mumbai. If they have arrived at this amazing process, which works in a chaotic environment like Mumbai (and mostly using either public transportation or low-key transportation such as bicycles), this model can be replicated in many other cities.

At the end of the day, what the dabbawalas do is to pick up dabba from point X and deliver it to point Y. Isnt this what Flipkart does too, in its last mile delivery – pick up package from Flipkart distribution center  at location X, and drop off at location Y (customer)?

This may not be only one way. For all you know, Ekart (which is the delivery wing of Flipkart) may have come up with some processes as well, which uses more modern tech and the use of sophisticated algorithms. It is very well possible that some of this might end up being beneficial in automating processes in the dabbawala community. An immediate example that comes me is bar-coding stickers instead of the traditional color coding.

Dabba delivery as a business: Well, who knows. If this proves lucrative and serves multiple purposes such as delivery on the way, flipkart might even get on to it.

Food delivery: If you replace the origin of the dabba from home to a restaurant, you have food delivery. If you replace restaurant to a catering service, you have a subscription based tiffin service.

The possibilities are endless…