Poor Little Rich Slum by Rashmi Bansal, Deepak Gandhi
Rashmi Bansal is the queen of entrepreneurial case studies in India. She writes for the layperson. Who hopefully get inspired by these stories. And weaves his or her dreams of being an entrepreneur some day. This time in Poor Little Rich Slum her lens along with her co-author zooms in on Dharavi, right in her own backyard. Dharavi for some time has managed to keep itself in media. Through international movies depicting its poverty. Or through Slum tourism that has been gaining ground.
Authors choose to tell the stories of enterprises and people behind them, both of who are born, brought up, nurtured and thrive here. Between stories, they also tell the story of the place as a whole. It’s beginning as a small Potter’s settlement. Whose members are now struggling to survive? They take you through its narrow and filthy lanes and gallies. Stopping at some homes, visiting some home based businesses run by women. And some high-end businesses running within small premises. Poor settlements and NGOs co-exist, sometimes it seems for each other only. So authors visit a lot of them and talk about the work they are doing. And the changes they have been able to bring about.
If NGOs are there failed Government schemes and plans cannot be too far. Then there are people who came here for meeting their self-actualization goals. And decided to stay back and become a part of the community. If you read the business periodicals regularly, you may have read about many ventures mentioned in the book, but what authors do is bring out these stories with the voice of the entrepreneur. Be it a tailoring unit, a dance shoe making outfit or tourism ventures. Some of the individual ventures are big or mid-sized, most are small but collectively they are a formidable lot.
The key takeaways from the book for me are:
- Migrants come and live here because it is a cheap place to and it provides employment fast.
- People who have made money and can move out also choose to live here as it is a complete ecosystem in itself – They live here, work here and socialize here. The labor is obviously the cheapest here.
- An extent of your dreams is really the only limitation that you have.
- Though everyone and everything are space constrained in Dharavi, overall they are doing better for themselves than their peers in other slums because of the spirit of entrepreneurship. But the focus on cleanliness is still not there.
Some questions that pop up after reading the stories:
- Why the focus on cleanliness so low? Is it because they really do not see this as an issue or like the rest of Mumbai, who has the time to look beyond your own space?
- Sanitation levels are so bad, wonder why no NGO has worked in this area, or if they have why they have failed?
Authors have obviously chosen the success stories only, which is nice and these are the stories that need to be told, but to get a balanced view you must see the stories that failed and why they failed. After all, we learn as much from failures as we from success.
As a format, it is like a pocket book. Small, less than thousand word stories interspersed with photographs with small sentences. Photographs I think could have been better. Stories are categorized into four sections. The cover page is very pleasing and chic in sharp contrast to the subject it deals with, looks like the futuristic impression of the slum.
Read Poor Little Rich Slum for the world that is a world in itself.