A couple of items that caught my attention this week.
Dubbawallas of Mumbai. As the Indian economy grows at a dizzying pace, the subcontinent is experiencing rapid social change, but some traditions are standing the test of time. One of them is the dubbawallas — the men who deliver tiffins (those metal canisters) of home-cooked hot lunches to office workers all around Mumbai. Forget office cafeterias and fast-food chains. Workers in Mumbai still enjoy the warm lunches lovingly prepared by their wives, mothers, and grandmothers. The dubbawallas—whose business has been growing 5 to 10 percent annually—have an elaborate system of picking up tens of thousands of tiffins from homes each day, taking them to a central train station, sorting them by destination, and then getting them to the proper offices just in time for lunch. The entire process then works in reverse to get the empty tiffins back home. Rarely is a mistake ever made. As one dubbawalla says, “There is a service called FedEx that is similar to ours—but they don’t deliver lunch.”
Which companies are receiving H1-B visas? H1-B work visas were intended to help U.S. companies hire skilled workers from abroad when they can’t find Americans to fill job openings. Ironically, though, non-U.S. companies—namely Indian outsourcing firms—have been using the visas. Yes, that’s right. Outsourcing companies are staffing their U.S. offices with foreign workers on H1-B visas. BusinessWeek magazine recently compiled a list of the top 25 recipients of H1-B visas in the 2006 fiscal year. The Indian outsourcing firms Infosys and Wipro came in first and second, respectively. In all, 16 of the top 25, whether U.S. or non-U.S. companies, had significant outsourcing operations. For more details, check out the slide show of the list here.