How can social and digital empowerment fuel positive growth for Dharavi's SMEs?
In the era of internet and accelerated online consumerism, digitalization is no longer an option but has become a necessity for businesses to thrive. Once considered a way for businesses to gain competitive advantage, post-pandemic, digitalization has now become a matter of survival. For many small-scale businesses, digitalization is about building resiliency, collaboration, and reaching a broad spectrum of consumers. Small scale businesses in Dharavi make a significant contribution to manufacturing output, creating employment, exports and providing inclusive growth. But the COVID-19 pandemic and increased online competition has exacerbated the digital divide, making it difficult for many businesses and karigars (artisans) to survive.
Digitalization can transform how SMEs operate in Dharavi. Made in Dharavi is a digital application that will support small-scale businesses in Dharavi to make them locally productive and globally connected. Through the platform, small-scale businesses and employers can grow their online presence, share resources, collaborate with other businesses and gain knowledge and tools to be more competitive, resilient, and successful. It will also empower Dharavi’s employees or karigars to professionally network, engage with employers and share the skill and training required for the vocation.
Strengthening social capital with technological support can de-centralize production networks and bring more social cohesion. It will foster a collaborative economy and help in the long-term sustenance. We propose a digital application that comprises several business and training components, opening a plethora of opportunities for SMEs and their employees.
Dharavi’s businesses are not organized in large factories and assembly lines, but in hundreds of tiny workshops or tool-houses that are connected to each other as by swarms of agents, contractors, and transporters. Tool-houses are flexible live-work spaces that support production, workshops, selling and living. The existing toolhouses can be equipped with an array of flexible machinery, storage and services that several businesses can use. With market demand, new co-working toolhouses can support young startups attracting diverse talents and new businesses. Owners can book a tool house through the platform for flexible timings and capacity. Sharing of space, equipment and tools will not only reduce cost but also help new ventures to thrive and support collaboration and co-creation which are key to future work paradigms.
When each individual business has its own supply chain of raw materials, customer shipping, and processing machinery, it increases freight transportation, energy consumption, and the overall cost of production and sale. When businesses can collectively share shipping, storage or infrastructure, it not only reduces cost and carbon emission but also funnels local economy, promotes interaction and enhances social capital. The platform can connect business owners to collaboratively purchase raw material, manage storage, shipping infrastructure, and waste management.
Dharavi Skill School
Dharavi is a skill-based community where most products are handmade and the techniques and skills are passed over the word of mouth, apprenticeship, and hands-on training from one generation to another. A digital platform can enhance this learning by supporting skills training for newcomers and artisans, courses to advance their techniques and become part of the local economy. It will also provide an opportunity to take online classes and workshops from artisans outside the community. In the long term, the platform can host a library of these training sessions and can provide a knowledge pool for the future generation to learn and engage in these crafts. Digitalization can be key not only to preserve these skills but also diversify, allowing more exposure to untapped markets and efficient collaborations.
Dharavi is an incredibly unique area that outsiders rarely get the opportunity to work in and learn from. Digital workshops can foster cross-collaboration of skill training between Dharavi Karigars, Kala Kendra’s (craft schools), and experts globally. It can serve as a platform to discuss new methodologies while bringing people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and contexts to engage with the craft. The application can host several online skill workshops, finance training, entrepreneurship training that can support the overall growth of the business owners and employees. Supporting the local economy and skills can be a key to keeping the craft alive and progressing.
Dharavi Jobs+ is built as a useful networking tool to help karigars to find jobs, connect with employers, and vice-versa. The platform builds digital profiles for both artisans seeking employment as well as small-scale businesses hiring workers on a daily, short or long-term basis to fulfill their order requirements. At a local level, this platform will amplify information reach connecting karigars to collaborate with varied businesses on a requirement basis. At an international level, the digital profile showcases unique professional stories through their skills and experience branding Dharavi to enter international markets.
Dharavi is a diverse market where products are manufactured, packaged and distributed mainly as wholesale. A dedicated workforce and the collaborative nature of Dharavi’s small scale businesses allow for them to undertake large orders and meet delivery deadlines efficiently. The Dharavi e-commerce platform will bring more business opportunities targeting different local, regional and international markets even with the possibility of selling products directly to consumers when desired. It opens up varied possibilities for small scale businesses to carry about sales, while showcasing their products online reaching other wholesalers, retailers and direct customers.
With a major shift to the digital realm, the Made in Dharavi application will provide a great opportunity for a more integrated, collaborative and equitable future for Dharavi’s Karigars and small scale businesses. The ideas discussed in this series of blogs will initiate a dialogue and provide a framework for future digitalization of Dharavi’s small scale businesses.