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Modernizing Dharavi

Modernizing Dharavi
Dharavi is one of the largest slums in Asia and is located in Mumbai.

This article is based on a study by Dr. Abhijit Roy, co-authored with Mousumi Roy, Ph.D., independent scholar: “Modernizing Dharavi: if you build, will they come?” which recently won a runner-up award in the 2013 Oikos Global Case Writing Competition, St. Gallen, Switzerland, in the Corporate Sustainability track. 

Even among the countless high-rise developments that have sprung up in Mumbai over the last decade, it is impossible to miss the vast rows of corrugated tin roofs covering the squalor of Dharavi. The slum, which was featured in the widely acclaimed movie Slumdog Millionaire, spans a total of 535 acres and accommodates about 600,000 residents (approximately as many as a city the size of Boston, Seattle or Baltimore). 

Mumbai’s quest to be a world-class city with a globally comparable quality of life has prompted the local, state and national governments to dramatically reengineer the area with a $2.3 billion 10-year program. The program would transform Mumbai into a world-class city with a vibrant economy and globally comparable quality of life by 2015.

Mr. Mukesh Mehta, a celebrated architect and realtor who has made a name for himself by building expensive custom homes for the rich in Long Island, New York, was hired to radically redesign Dharavi. He empathizes with the hard-working and honest people of the locality, who sometimes work up to 15 hours a day in order to make a living. He wants to grant them the better lives they deserve.

The redesign and the large budget of the project have been the source of many questions and much confusion. The slum dwellers worry that their businesses will be harmed if they have to move to the allocated areas: 225-square-foot spaces in multi-storied buildings. 

Can builders be trusted to provide what is promised? Will the slum dwellers receive a fair share of developers’ profits, considering the current estimate of Dharavi’s real estate value is $10 billion? The slum dwellers fear that they will lose their status as entrepreneurs and end up as servants for the rich, who will pay premium prices for rest of the development. Mr. Mehta’s philosophy for creating a successful development project is to meet the interests of all stakeholders and create a win-win situation for everyone involved, but can he convince the residents of his good intentions? If he rebuilds Dharavi, will they come?  

The full case study was published in Jordi V. Gabriel ed. Case Studies in Sustainability Management: The oikos collection: Volume 3 (2014), Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf Publishing.

Dr. Abhijit Roy, is a professor in the Management and Marketing Department. He received his doctorate from Boston University.

Read the full version in Ignite, our faculty publication, here

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