Sunshine Story: Goods from Dharavi break stereotypes

Goods from Asia’s biggest slum find their space and break stereotypes

The leather and pottery hub in the city first went online a year ago, when Megha Gupta founded dharavimarket.com. The town planner got acquainted with Dharavi when she was working on a research project a few years ago.

A customer with Leena Namdev, (l)  the store attendant at Dharavi Market. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
A customer with Leena Namdev, (l)  the store attendant at Dharavi Market. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

She says, “I decided to give the artisans in Dharavi a better platform to sell their goods. So I started online sales on the site. The platform needed very little investment and I did not need much retail space. The sales were very good online.”

Megha Gupta
Megha Gupta

Contest
While selling the Dharavi goods online, Gupta learnt of a contest at Inorbit Mall, Malad for Women’s Day where women entrepreneurs were given an opportunity to put forth their ideas.

She says, “I won the contest held earlier this year and the mall gave me a small pop up shop towards the parking lot entrance. The store started operating at Inorbit from August 13.”

Leena Namdev who works at the Dharavi Market at Inorbit Mall as a salesperson says, “Weekends generally see a lot of crowd as people flock to the mall on weekends. The buyers look for sales and discounts but are very intrigued by the concept of Dharavi in a mall complex.”

The concept of Dharavi Market has been a big boon for Hussain Shaikh. The Dharavi resident says, “The future of my leather goods business is secure. I now have access to an online space as well as to a mall which was not possible earlier.”

Mohammed Rafiq, a craftsman from Dharavi who till date did not know who were the end users of his products as he made bags and sold them to agents is now excited to sell his products in a mall. He says, “We can command a better price and still be cheaper compared to most shops here.

We are also getting the brand identity that Dharavi deserves. Also, more people who would want to manufacture high quality goods in Dharavi are attracted. This opportunity will help us grow our business many folds.”

Avenue
Dharavi Market has brought smiles to the faces of many at Inorbit Mall. Bhoomi Thakur, a Malad resident who frequents the mall says, “I only wish that this great idea was placed in a better location, currently it is at the back of the mall. Otherwise, giving Dharavi representation in a mall is a great idea.

I loved the wallets. They are so much cheaper than the big brands. But when it comes to quality they are on par with those.” Arvind Mehta, a businessman says, “The laptop bags are economical and made of really good quality leather.

The belts also, are nice and strong. I have heard a lot about Dharavi, but have always been sceptical of going there. It is nice that the products from there are accessible here at the mall.”

“The rates of leather goods are generally very high. But Dharavi Market provides them at affordable prices. I like the patterns of products here. It is quality at an affordable rate,” says Salim Farooq, who works for a multi-national company.

Johnica Rodrigues, a fashion designer who was at the mall when this reporter was there says, “I always thought the products in Dharavi were substandard. But here I have purchased quality leather products and pottery. I think this is an eye opener for those who have stereotypes about Dharavi.”

Connect
“The main purpose is to generate more business for our craftsmen who do not get a fair deal for the goods their produce. They don’t have marketing skills and hence cannot approach corporates and stores directly.

This retail space is a good opportunity for one to one interaction with our individual and institutional clients as we dispel negative notions of lives in slums,” says Gupta. Dharavi artisans were employed in the store for a few days but they found the mall too far to access and so Namdev was employed.

Shaikh says, “Getting to Malad from Dharavi is tough. We have to change two buses, take the train and then a few more buses. We ended up spending more than two hours on one way travel. Dealing with the customers was also difficult. So we decided not to continue.”

Namdev says, “People are very excited about Dharavi. They come out of curiosity. The highest selling item are laptop bags. Working people find the rates within their budget and buy more than one bag.” “The crowd is most on weekends and I help out in the store on these days.

I am generally busy with work on weekdays and do not have time to get to Malad and visit the store. We have a relationship based on trust with the artisans which is helping the market grow,” ends an upbeat Gupta who plans to take the market into the main mall building in a very short while.

Dharavi Market contact details
Located at Inorbit Mall, Malad at the Ground Floor on the Customer Bridge.
For bulk orders: Megha Gupta 9892287011 
Email: admin@dharavimarket.com, dharavimarket@gmail.com
Pottery cost: Between Rs 80 to Rs 700.
Leather bag rates: Between Rs 2500 to Rs 6000.

About Dharavi
>> The slum grew in part because of expulsion of factories and residents from the city’s centre by the colonial government, and from rural poor migrating into urban Mumbai in 1882.
>> Is currently a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, diverse settlement.
>> Total population estimates vary between 300,000 to about 1 million.
>> Has an active informal economy in which numerous household enterprises employ many of the slum residents. 
>> Exports goods around the world.
>> It currently covers an area of 217 hectares (535 acres).
>> Has an estimated 5000 businesses and 15,000 single-room factories.

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