On a recent trip to Mumbai I had the experience of a lifetime when I was taken on a walkthrough of one of Mumbai’s biggest slums, Dharavi.

Now when I first heard ‘slums’, I had all sorts of crazy pre-conceptions about what it would be like and I was, admittedly, quite anxious about going in. I’m sure you probably have your own ideas about what a slum is really like when you go deep inside it. In this post, i’m going to share with you some of my experiences and learnings from my trip to Dharavi – I have included some pictures and a video at the bottom of this post.

What It’s Really Like Inside Dharavi

If I had to sum it up in a word, that word would be organised.

The slum, where scenes of Slumdog Millionaire were filmed in 2007/08, covers over 430 acres of land but every part of it is meticulously organised and plays its role in making this one of India’s (and maybe the world’s) most ‘successful’ slums. You’ll be shocked, pleasantly I hope, to learn that Dharavi generates over $650million of revenue each year from selling goods that are created inside and exported around the world to the UK, USA and Australia.

$650million of revenue generated each year from exporting goods out of Dharavi – not too bad for a supposedly poverty-filled slum!

dharavi slum entrepreneurs

A factory deep in the slums of Dharavi (image credit: Reality Gives)

I saw factories and production lines creating leather goods, electronics, plastic containers, pottery…you name it! As I walked through the extremely narrow alleys (you’ll see them on the video below) I spoke to entrepreneurs who ran businesses from inside Dharavi (slumpreneurs?) and they told me how they buy scrap metals and plastic from the UK by the container load and once they recycle it and turn it into a new product they sell it back to us for a profit!

Infact, his exact words were:

We buy your crap and sell it back to you for a profit!

businesses in dharavi, mumbai

Cardboard recycling in Dharavi (image credit: Reality Gives)

What Can We Learn From Dharavi Entrepreneurs?

I noticed that almost everyone was extremely content with living in the slums and running their businesses. These wild pre-conceptions I had that people would be depressed, lying on the floor, not working and living in extreme poverty was completely false and I was glad that I was proved wrong during my trip to this amazing place which I feel had a massive impact on the way I see things and learn from others. There was a real sense of community and togetherness inside – I saw families working and eating together, children playing and real business being done between traders.

Dharavi was nothing like I expected – I was well and truly humbled. I want to thank the staff at Reality Gives, a charity based in the slums that puts on classes and workshops for children living in Dharavi, for showing me around and taking me on this epic trip.

dharavi entrepreneurs, business

Me with some entrepreneurs in Dharavi

One of the biggest lessons to takeaway from this trip was about being resourceful in business. We live in an unbelievably abundant world (both online and offline) where we literally have everything that we could ever need yet we always find excuses not to do things because of what we think we don’t have.

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