In the face of a rapidly changing economy and growing digitalization, we believe that digital and social empowerment has the potential to advance economic recovery for the SME’s in Dharavi.
Digital Empowerment: Can a hyperlocal digital solution empower small businesses and foster collaboration between businesses, consumers, and allied enterprises?
At a neighborhood scale, the digital platform will help in creating a network of local businesses and workers, providing opportunity updates and helping small business owners sell their products. It will act as a local marketplace, thereby strengthening local networks. At a city and national scale, it will provide equal opportunities and awareness about all government schemes and microcredit funding options, many of which are unknown to Dharavi businesses. Additionally, this platform will facilitate training and exchange of knowledge, supporting a shared economy.
Social Empowerment :
1. Enabling better public infrastructure and policies:
a) With the Internet becoming essential for business, education, communication, and services, government policies should aim at providing cheaper and more public-owned digital domains.
b) While most businesses are struggling to keep up with bills and payments, a subsidy for electricity and cable bills from the government can support faster recovery.
c) The relaxation of GST tax and export-import duties can aid business owners in resuming their work by relinking supply chains and facilitating easy trade.
d) The government should also come up with better schemes that provide quick economic support or loans at low-interest rates, rather than long-term schemes that fail to reach the MSMEs with immense potential.
e) Current infrastructure policies must be rethought to enable incremental growth within the neighborhood.
2. Setting up a minimum wage for daily and monthly salaried workers so that they gain stability and are not vulnerable during a crisis. During the COVID-19 crisis, many workers fled to their families in other cities and villages, and with the inability to work remotely, they were without income for months. Since these communities were the hardest hit, it is essential for the government to set a true wage to support workers and their families. Dharavi currently lacks labor unions and organizations to ensure social justice for the worker community. Local organizations with local community leaders can protect the welfare of workers, so they can live an equitable and dignified life.
3. Opportunities for constant learning and upskilling through a Universal Opportunity Account: Universal Opportunity Account is set up with a certain number of non-tradable credits that can be redeemed for starting a business or training online and offline in an open learning system. The working community can accumulate these credits through sharing of resources, supporting co-business owners, helping other businesses, and involving women in the supply chain with fair compensation. With the credits earned they can get time and money for scaling their business or skilling, upskilling and reskilling. In the face of a global crisis, jobs that help enhance a community or a country’s social and ecological capital could be rewarded through these Universal Opportunity Credits that could be added to their Universal Opportunities Account and used for enhancement of livelihoods. By creating income opportunities, providing skills training, and empowering people economically through financial inclusion, the Universal Opportunity Account will break down barriers and create the conditions for growth.
*Illustration by Aditya Warrier and Brendon D'Lima