India’s Online Marketplace For Mumbai’s Slum Artisans

Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dharavimarket.com is the first website created exclusively to sell products made by artisans from the slums of Dharavi India. Launched in August 2014 by social entrepreneur Megha Gupta, the website, which ships worldwide, showcases more than 1,000 items such as bags, jackets, apparel, pottery and miscellaneous corporate gifts crafted by almost 300 artisans from Dharavi.

MUMBAI, India

It is almost 10:30pm and Mohammad Rafiq Shaikh is trying to stitch up the last of the sling bags for an order that needs to be dispatched the next day. He usually leaves his workshop by 10pm, but today there is extra work.

Shaikh is an expert at making items out of leather and faux leather. He learned his skill as a child from craftsmen in Delhi, where he lived and worked for 20 years before moving to Mumbai in search of better opportunities.

He lives and works in Dharavi, Mumbai’s labyrinthine slum that was once Asia’s largest and still remains India’s most famous, owing its popularity in part to the 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire.

Located in the heart of the city in about 200-hectares of space, it is home to almost a million people, and is dotted with thousands of small-scale and cottage industries including pottery, leatherwork and zari embroidery — crafts that have been alive in some families for generations.

Contrary to popular belief that only dirt and squalor can be found in a slum, Dharavi has enterprises that are said to generate solid revenue each year.

Yet, a large number of the residents of Mumbai’s most productive informal settlement belong to low or middle-income groups and have to work around the clock to feed their families.

Many, like Shaikh, have left their families back in their native villages because they cannot afford to provide for them in a city as expensive as Mumbai.

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