By Harleen Kaur:
Mumbai is a city full of surprises. The latest surprise in the financial capital is the growing popularity of “Dharavi Tours”. Now this is not a name of some traveling agency but refers to a real tour of Dharavi! Most of us are aware that Dharavi slums, located in Mumbai, India, are the largest slums in Asia. However, most people are unaware of the fact that it is also the heart of small-scale industries in Mumbai boasting an annual turnover of approximately US $665 million. A tourist agency, known as ‘Reality Tours’, even specializes in conducting these tours for Indian & Foreign Nationals.
Located on a stretch of 1.7 sq km of prime property, it is a habitat of over 1 million people (about 55% of the city’s population) and houses a number of industries like recycling, the making of clay pots, embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, papad (poppadom) making and many others. Most of these goods are produced in houses that can only be described as semi-dark small huts with knob-less doors and varying crannies. Though most of the goods produced are sold in the Indian markets without a brand name, many of these like embroidered clothes, clay pots, etc are exported worldwide.
The most dominant industry in Dharavi however is the leather industry. This industry employs thousands of people living in these slums and has an approximate turnover of Rs 120 million. Manufacturers from Dharavi are known to export cheap, but pure leather goods, to many European and Middle East Countries.
On a tour of Dharavi you will learn that the uneducated can teach you much about life as well as business. Everywhere you go you will observe people living in appalling conditions yet welcoming you with a warm and content smile on their faces. In spite of the doubtful sanitation in living conditions, the various food-related businesses are known to maintain basic hygiene where you are not allowed to even enter the premises with footwear. The space utilization is also commendable where no available space is wasted. One of the main reasons that the government has been unable to start the redevelopment process in this area is the existence of these various industries and their relocation problems
Food for thought: The people living in Dharavi who migrated from various parts of India have shown what we can achieve if we learn to work together in harmony and give everything our very best.