Very interesting post! What most strikes me in their business model in the unpredictability that comes with it on all fronts:
– Unpredictability of customer response: It is hard to predict customer reaction to some of the pieces. And with some low demand pieces being very expensive maybe some of the more high demand items are subsidizing the lower demand ones.
– Unpredictability of item lifetime: While some dresses may be good for over 20 rentals, others may deteriorate easily, even before getting any ROI out of it. Even more, some items may be particular to a specific trend and will therefore quickly become obsolete – I wonder how reactive they are to trends.
– Unpredictability of item availability: With the new “unlimited” subscription that they are offering, in which you may keep the item as long as you need, will some items just never be in stock??
As I said, this is a very interesting company and a very nice post – I would be interested to see how long they will be able to maintain their business model and hedge the risks of the unpredictability it dictates.
Hey Saumya, first of all I would like to preface by saying I LOVE THIS POST! I vividly remember watching this episode about 2-3 years ago (wow time sure does fly…) and thinking that it was impossible for this system to beat the presenters in the race. But it was amazing to me that what is seemingly a chaotic system is actually an organized and well honed operation that’s specifically tailored to the city and country.
In my opinion the point you touched on with regards to the community values is one of the most crucial ones. Every Dabbawala shows pride and devotion in what they do, it is not the seemingly simple act of delivering a meal but it is about bringing joy and connecting families.
I also think it is easy for us – or Top Gear in this case – to apply some of our preconceived notions of what makes a process efficient. But the extent to which the presenters failed at the task shows us how important it is for an operation to understand the context in which it is operating. e.g. Using super-cars is of no help when the traffic won’t let you move, and devising an elaborate coding language doesn’t work when the Dabbawalas can’t read and the streets don’t have numbers/names.
PS. The illustrations are pretty spot on!