Buy your fancy stuff from an Indian slum

One woman is helping to transform Asia's biggest slum into a global online market place.

"Ma'am, if I may ask, what business have you in Dharavi?" Nayeem enquired.

The driver was surprised, yet careful to tame his curiosity with a measure of politeness. "Dharavi is slum area, you know? Many poor people. Not safe."

I'd heard much about this infamous "largest slum in Asia" in the heart of Mumbai, India, and wanted to see it for myself.

Besides, Nayeem had also pointed out that the finest leather bags and wallets, including the branded stuff, were made right here in the slum.

As I walked around the maze of narrow alleyways in between makeshift shelters, I was greeted by  friendly nods from shopkeepers and artisans, as well as children with oversized backpacks running around shouting "Hi!" as they trailed behind me.

The place was full of life and colour, and I wanted to take in everything.


Sombodhi, my contact, told me that Dharavi is home to many migrants – some estimate that one million people live here – who've come from surrounding rural areas hoping to find better work opportunities.

Along with a hotchpotch of cultures coming together, Dharavi has a high concentration of artisans and craftsmen.

These are hardworking people. And though they earn little, they seemed quite content and happy to me.

Making a difference

So how does an online business like make any difference to them, I wondered.

What do they do with the extra money they earn from online sales – the money that doesn't go to a wholesaler or traditional retailer?

One of the artisans, Abbas, had a simple response: instead of working every day, they now allow themselves to take a day off every now and again.

"Now with this additional income, we can take our families out to enjoy."

I like the idea that my buying of a wallet or bag could contribute to a parent taking some time off from a 15-hour-a-day, 7-day work week, to spend it with his children.

Buy leather bags and jackets, clay jars and other good stuff direct from the artisans and craftsmen here.

About DharaviMarket

Founded by an ex-journalist, is a for profit online marketplace. The initiative provides skilled craftsmen from urban squatters a platform to sell their crafts at competitive prices, which helps improve their livelihood.



Grace Baey

Production Manager

Vaani Bala