Dhravai – also known as Mumbai’s shadow city – houses one of the largest slums of the world. But, what most people don’t know is that it is also a hub of enterprising and super-skilled craftsmen.

My first close association with the (in)famous Dhravai came during my initial days, when I was working on a transportation project as an urban planner. That’s when I came across the variety and quality of products built by local artisans.

The stuff ranged from leather goods like bags, jackets, shoes to other artistic forms like pottery and clay-based handicrafts to apparel and other customised products.

However, the artisans had very limited avenues for selling their goods. Not only were they forced to sell on low margins, but also the kind of ‘unsafe’ habitat around push customers back for direct sale to happen.

That was when I came up with the idea of an ecommerce platform that would enable these artisans to sell directly to customers, not just in Mumbai or India, but across the globe. With some research and a little bit of monetary investment, Dharavimarket.com was born.

The Internet as a facilitator

Business was already happening in Dharavi, but it could explore its true potential only due to the power of the Internet. At Dharavimarket, we chose a .com domain name because it is the easiest to remember. Also, .com is almost synonymous with the Internet. It was also important because we were targeting a global audience.

In addition, we were able to build a credible payment gateway that helped facilitate international sales and drive corporate sales. The Dharavi karigars (artisans) earlier couldn’t afford to build online payment gateways that are important for corporates. With the website in place, they can sell directly to customers and also command a fair price for their products.

In a way, the  Internet facilitated these slum-dwellers a real chance to achieve social equality by providing a much-needed platform.

Advice to small businesses

Today, investing in a website is important for all small businesses. Having a website shows that you’re serious about your business and are not doing it as a hobby. It’s like your online visiting card.  In fact, it probably doesn’t matter whether or not you have a visiting card, but a website is crucial if you want people to trust you.

One word of advice for entrepreneurs is that because a website costs money to buy, build and maintain; it is a good idea to first explore lower-cost avenues such as free websites and social media platforms for marketing. These can help you test the waters before you before go ahead and launch a full-fledged, self-hosted website for your brand and business.


About The Author

Megha Gupta: Megha is the founder of Dharavimarket.com. She holds a degree in Master of Arts Town and Regional Planning from University of Sheffield,UK.

 

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