Thanks to Praveen Kumar for this link. A business run from a rickety slum in Mumbai delivers 200,000 lunchboxes from 35 distribution centres daily, despite owning no vehicles and many of its employees being minimally educated.
It strikes me this network succeeds for the same reason the Internet did: it solves an infrastructural problem through fault-tolerant protocols. The tiffin-wallahs treat late trains and crowded streets as damage and route around them, using their own knowledge of the neighbourhoods and people they deliver to. All that tacit knowledge, all that value, locked up in the heads of a few thousand workers guided by a common plan. It’s so effective it achieves Six Sigma quality standards.
Best of all, the trust and value inherent in this network can’t be bought or built by multinationals: its entire success depends on close personal contact with the customer. The multinationals must be infuriated!