I am writing a blog piece for the first time, I just wish, i’m able to do justice to its cause.
This is all about Project “Dharavi CAN”, but before I tell you about that, let me introduce you to the place – Dharavi.
If you simply type Dharavi in ‘Search’, the immediate answer you get is ‘Slum area’ and It’s true! It is probably Asia’s largest slum area in suburban, Mumbai – The commercial capital of India.
But is it just a Slum? Well, you’ll get to know.
‘Dharavi CAN’ an initiative where Ulhaas foundation, a Mumbai based NGO and HostGator India, one of India’s largest web-solutions company, envisioned providing a basic website presence to those thousands of un-imagined and unnoticed but successfully thriving businesses in Dharavi. This attempt was to make them realize the promise and potential of web and what it can do to grow their business.
I arrived Mumbai, on the evening of 25th April. A little apprehensive, little overwhelmed and overall naïve, about how Dharavi would welcome me. How the activity will go.
Next morning , Prashanth, the Trustee of Ulhaas foundation picked me up and we started journeying towards Dharavi. Somehow I found the morning view of Mumbai – beautiful, yet a little too sunny. To my amazement, everything at the venue was planned beautifully. The place – Ganesh Vidya mandir welcomed us with huge banners as a backdrop and steering volunteers. I was excited to see over 60 volunteers all geared up to join our stride in making a dent in the universe.
We addressed the team, spoke to them about the activity, why are we doing it and how would attempts like these augment the bigger goal of building a sustainable and thriving web ecosystem in India. After about 10 minutes of talk, the volunteers were clear on what all they had to do. Fully armed and excited, we started storming the streets of Dharavi. This was to start a journey that aimed to change perspective and brighten lives.
All the volunteers were divided into 8 teams, 4 members in each. 1 member from each team was carrying camera to capture every approach, they also carried the giveaways for business owners; Books, Pens and Promotional pamphlet to complement our efforts.
The first business we addressed was a leather products manufacturer. The owner of the business, Rahim almost agreed in no time to get a website for his own business. Fully aware about online shopping websites, he has always had a dream to have one of his own. Rahim even offered us cold drinks, gave all the required business details that we needed to take the business online.
Having similar and varied experiences, we covered Dharavi over a period of two days. In this initiative we met some real interesting people like Mr Chandra who earns a six digit monthly income from his business, the most famous potter in Dharavi whose clay-work mostly adores the million dollar farmhouses of Mumbai. They all had one thing in common, their love for Dharavi. It felt as if their identity had somehow melted in to the ghettos and the by-lanes of Dharavi. Beyond this they could not see any hope.
It was almost evening now and on the back seat of a two-wheeler I started my way back. With some most profound experiences and the contentment of having touched so many lives.
As I raised my last view towards Dharavi I had a very satisfying view, which is hard to express here. All the businesses we were passing by had HostGator logo which daringly said ‘ NOW ONLINE’. This was the promise we made and somewhere fulfilled it.
Now sitting and looking back at everything its hard to tell what all did we achieve. We touched over 1100 micro/small businesses, gave basic online presence to most of them. But what we truly achieved is not in numbers. We made some difference to lives, it was not just a website for these people, it was their sense of hope, it was a belief which would connect them to the Outside world, it was a bolstering confidence that ‘DHARAVI CAN’.