A visit to Dharavi provided the students an in-depth view to India’s largest slum. Students were exposed to an intricate network of businesses that created a supply chain unlike any they’d experienced before. The visit challenged existing perceptions while also exhibiting a surprisingly optimistic view of the strength of this tight-knit community.
One of the most memorable parts of this trip for me was the slum tour. Led by Professor Dr. Sapna Modi and Professor Shabbir Harianawala and our local guide, the group set off by bus from Kharghar to Dharavi on the day of the trip. With a population of more than 1 million dwelling in an area of 535 acres, the Dharavi slum is one of the largest in the world.
Walking along the crowded market, we first visited the industrial part of the slum, consisting of recycling, leather, textiles and pottery businesses which produce goods for the local market as well as export internationally. Some areas are heavily
polluted due to the poisonous fumes and waste produced from burning paint, resins and metals. Following our local guide through the narrow maze-like alleys, we entered into the residential area where the families of the workers live. The area had a limited supply of utilities, but the businesses and residents have learned to maximize their resources in this cluttered space.
To further dispel any notion of poverty stricken people miserable in squalor, our guide began quoting astonishing numbers to us. In Dharavi, there are a total of 4,902 production units bringing in an annual income of around $1 billion. They’re divided into:
Dharavi’s Incredible Industries:
and around 6 workers, with an annual turnover of 2 Million rupees with almost no support from the government and terrible infrastructure.
LEATHER BAGS SMALL SCALE INDUSTRY:
Born to a family that has been in the leather business in Dharavi since the 1950s, Khalid Bhai took over the reins from their father, and in 1988 renamed it as “Saniya Enterprises”. The infusion of young blood turned the firm towards new ideas and technology. Today, their company produces leather bags (mostly of all the brands as per the order whether it is small or big) that are supplied to other retailers who in turn export them abroad. The Khalid Bhai went from their original 8x8ft manufacturing unit to a two-storey building with an annual turnover of 3m rupees with almost no support from the government and terrible infrastructure.
He has around 18 to 20 employees who both work and live in this two-storey unit, sharing rooms and the single bathroom. Two people share one 12x10ft room, while others sleep on the terrace. Some are paid weekly wages, others a monthly salary and a few on a contract basis; the salaries range from 6,000 to 15,000 rupees per month.
“Every unit, big or small, has workers coming from all over the country,” he says. “I have laborers who are from Bihar and who have nothing in mind but work. All they think of is of working the whole day and night to earn livelihood for their family back home. All they require is a small space to work and sleep and a television set in the corner of the room.”
BAKERY SMALL SCALE INDUSTRY:
Each day Dharavi produces tons of food. The PAAV is made right here in Dharavi and sold to restaurants, stalls and hotels all across the city. Approx. 65000-70000 pieces of PAAV is produced by a single unit in a day. So remember next time while having a PAAV at a restaurant, it might be made in Dharavi.
The part of the Dharavi tour took us through some of the small-scale industry workshops. It was fascinating to see how they operated.The Local Guide explained the process of plastic recycling, as we watched the work going on.”First, the plastics for recycling are grouped together according to color and quality. Next, they’re crushed and made into small pieces. Then, they’re washed and dried on the roof tops. After that, they’re taken and rolled into pallets, and sent to the plastic manufacturers. 60,000 recycled products are made from them.”
All kinds of plastic items, from chai cups to pieces of old telephones, were being sorted through and processed by Dharavi residents.
The tour progressed through other small-scale industries vessels were being spun on pottery wheels, small clay diyas were being shaped.
Kumbharwada (potters colony) – they are said as the earliest settlers of Dharavi. Around 1200 family lives in 10 acres of land. every single family have a single business is to make pots they sell it in front of the houses and they also send it all over India from Dharavi as well. They don’t use the traditional clay. They use field mud and they make clay out of the mud by putting water in it for two three days. According to the usage they use wheel for giving shape to the mud.
After giving the shape they put them under the sun and let them dry. After drying they put it inside the pit for baking pots they cover it with cotton. For baking they use textile waste as fuel. After baking they color it & sell it in the market.
But upcoming generation doesn’t want to continue this business as they don’t see any scope of it in future
OTHER SMALL SCALE INDUSTRIES:
Luggage industry: trolley bags are also manufactured in Dharavi. A sample piece is being provided to workers and on the basis of that they manufacture the bags. They also manufacture school bags according to the market demand.
Dying industry: In Dharavi there is a cloth dying industry. A big roll of white clothes is given to workers and by mixing different color combination they match the color with sample cloth. They add salt in the boiling water to make the color strong. They have big barrels which they use according to size of the cloth to be dyed.
Machine manufacturing and repairing unit Dharavi is itself have the machine manufacturing and repairing unit which they use it in crushing of plastic and other industry also. If any breakdown in machine happens they get also repair it. Blades of crushing machine are also sharpened in this industry. Workers who work over here are not engineers but they are high skilled worker.
Cardboard box reusing industry Used cardboard box are bought then they remove the staples and plastic tape from the boxes and after that they turn it inside out and send it back in local market for transportation. They don’t recycle it but they make it reusable.
The space in Dharavi is primarily a place of work. The factories in Dharavi existed long before independence. The 3-hour slum tour was an eye-opening and unforgettable experience. I was fascinated to see how the population has created its own ecosystem within the slum. Despite the hazardous working environment and poor living conditions, the slum is organized, the people are productive, and it was refreshing to see the children playing with smiles on their faces.
Let us begin by correcting Mumbai, India and the world’s perception, by calling Dharavi “Asia largest small-scale industry” and not a slum or wasteland! As to call each thing by its right name, is the right thing to do…
LEARNINGS FROM THE VISIT:
After this trip, I believe that Dharavi is an economic success story that every person and business can learn from. The people of Dharavi have three main characteristics:
Finally, I understand how development of places like Dharavi should not be seen as an opportunity to make a profit. Instead, one should contribute to communities like Dharavi without looking for something in return.