Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tiffin food deliveries in India

I've been fascinated for a while with the Indian practice called tiffin: the delivery of home-cooked meals to schoolkids and office workers. The practice is famous for being assigned six sigma levels of quality by Forbes. The delivery service is incredibly accurate and vast numbers of meals are delivered in a FedEx-style routing where meals are biked to train stations, sorted by destination, loaded onto trains, and then delivered the rest of the way by bike again.

This article is my favorite on the topic so far.

I figure this cultural practice has to rest on a value that isn't shared here in the this case, a very high value placed on home-cooked meals. The article I cite seems to validate this idea. It's not an absolute: it's not like office workers won't eat food at nearby restaurants ever. But there's a strong contingent of people who put a lot of value on these home cooked meals, and who feel that "outside food" is unhealthy.

Now, this makes me wonder what U.S. practices could be similar: things that we do here, perhaps applying great effort to them, that seem unnecessary to other countries. Because that's my reaction to the tiffin thing: it sounds great, but I can't imagine anyone putting the effort into it here.

The only thing that springs to mind are electric clothes dryers, because I read that appliance companies have trouble selling those in Europe, where folks don't see a need for them. It would never occur to me to view a clothes dryer as optional.

But that's not too satisfying because it's not a big effort involving a huge organization. Or at least, though it takes a big org to build a dryer, it's tied right into manufacturing other appliances so it doesn't feel like its own thing.

I suppose the tongue scraper is another good example. I think of that as a Vietnamese thing, but Wikipedia says it originated in India and China. It's something mostly unknown in the U.S. and regarded as essential hygiene elsewhere.


  1. How about fast-food and coffee drive-throughs? You can get a burger and fries or a fancy coffee drink with less physical effort than anywhere else in the world!

  2. You're probably right, Mikael...I doubt the equivalent of our drive-throughs exists anywhere else...