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Design students take the weight off dabbawalas' shoulders The services of city's dabbawalas recently went up a notch after two students of design came up with a novel concept of a jacket for carrying tiffins. Currently studying at Pune's MIT Institute of Design, Mumbai girl Nikita Chonkar (22) and her batchmate Bhargavi Joglekar (21) wanted to ease the burden of dabbawalas and increase their efficiency. Earlier, dabbawalas either mounted a seven-ft-long crate/basket full of tiffins on their heads or used a kavli (a nylon loop to carry the tiffins), which hung on their shoulder. "Both techniques were inefficient. With the basket, the total weight came up to 60-65 kg and kavli weighed 35-40 kg. We noticed that the weight was not distributed evenly. Also, the basket weighed seven kg and the dabbawalas complained of hair loss and body pain," said Chonkar.

She and Joglekar assessed how dabbawalas carried tiffins and designed a product for them as part of their assignment.

Chonkar and Joglekar kept in mind the mandatory aspects, including weight, ease in handling and proper weight distribution. "We changed our design four times before finalising one. We went through a validation process of one month, during which dabbawalas tried our jackets," Joglekar said.

She added that unlike the previous techniques, this equipment ensures less back pain.

"The jacket has four detachable hooks in the front and four at the back for hanging tiffins. We provided adjustable waist and chest belts for perfect fit," said Chonkar. The jackets weigh 1.5 kg and can carry 30-35 tiffins. Each dabbawala is supposed to deliver 35 tiffins every day.

"The basket that I carried on my head often hurt pedestrians and I had difficulty boarding trains," said Rajesh Talekar (35), a dabbawala. "Now, I have no back pain. As the weight is distributed on both my shoulders, the tiffins are easy to carry," he said. About MAEER's MIT MAEER's MIT Pune is a renowned design school that provides quality education the young designers from India. The organization aims to train its student so that they are suitable not only for corporate but also for the small scale and rural industries and handicrafts. MIT has a social goal for developing and encouraging rural design products that will help India at large.

Design students take the weight off dabbawalas' shoulders