16 April 2015 16:16:50 IST

Dharavi artisans get on the e-commerce platform

Website showcases products, ties up with Snapdeal

Mohammed Mujahid Hussain, a resident of one of Asia’s largest slums Dharavi, is much sought after for the leather jackets he makes. His popularity skyrocketed after Aamir Khan wore a jacket he made in Dhoom 3. But for the 40-year-old, business was not as great as his talent, primarily because his clientele was restricted to Mumbai.

Sometime last year he decided to sell his wares through DharaviMarket.com , a not-for-profit organisation that sources products from artisans and craftsmen living in Dharavi.

“Sales have gone up by 30 per cent almost immediately after I joined the online portal. Now orders for leather and faux leather goods, especially jackets and duffle bags, are coming in from other major cities such as Gurgaon and Bengaluru,” says Hussain. To expand the customer base, DharaviMarket.com tied up with Snapdeal in February. This gave DharaviMarket.com a special page on the bigger e-commerce platform. Over the last one month, DharaviMarket.com’s sales have increased by 50 per cent.

People like Hussain who sell apparel, bags and pottery made in Dharavi are now beginning to reap the benefit of niche online firms tying up with larger operators such as Flipkart and Snapdeal. “The intention of setting up the firm was to remove the notion of Dharavi being a slum. Now, the perception is changing and people are recognising it as a manufacturing base,” said Megha Gupta, founder of DharaviMarket.com.

For Snapdeal, this is not the only partnership when it comes to encouraging local artisans. Last month, the online marketplace entered into two agreements, one with Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation’s and another with Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd.

“These are partly business, partly fostering entrepreneurship…. The fostering of entrepreneurship will lead to creation of more jobs,” said Vishal Chadha, vice president, Market Development at Snapdeal.

Flipkart’s ‘Kaarigar ke Dwaar’, an agreement with labour ministry to train small and medium enterprises, is a similar initiative.

“Our focus is to empower sellers from different walks of life to explore the online route to grow their businesses. We have several initiatives like seller training, financial assistance, ancillary support among others to guide sellers across the nation sell online.

“So far we have helped hundreds of artisans and weavers in tier II and III cities to expand their businesses and reap the benefits offered by the online marketplace model,” said Ankit Nagori, Senior Vice-President–Marketplace at Flipkart.

Following suit

Many others are also following suit. For example, ShopClues.com has also tied up with Dharavimarket.com, while Specialcheez.com is selling clothes (Worli painted), accessories and homeware from NGOs such as Sankalp, Women’s India Trust and Shruti Hastkala.

“The endeavour is to promote the works of tribals. This is our way of associating with the ‘Make in India’ campaign and promoting the cultural diversity of India,” said Fatema Udaipurwala, Director, Specialcheez.com. None of this is philanthropy as e-commerce sites get their regular commission from every sale. For consumers, these are items or “art forms”, which are otherwise difficult to source through normal channels.

“Some of the products sourced from places like Dharavi are very unique as they allow users to submit their own designs,” said Anand Wagh, a sales executive with a private firm, who recently bought a jacket on Dharavimarket.com.

(With inputs from Rahul Wadke and Adith Charlie)