Prashant Sinha is a PGP student at the IIM Indore UAE Campus. His passion for social entrepreneurship is commendable and also inspiring for his batch-mates. His recent initiative known as DharaviCAN has brought several promising businesses online which are running in the vicinity of this so called slum and remain unnoticed and unreachable. The Media and Corporate Communications Committee of IIM Indore UAE had a very candid discussion with Prashant about this initiative. Here is the full interview:
Why DharaviCAN? What was the genesis of the idea?
People generally know Dharavi as Asia’s largest slum, but what people don’t know is that there are around 5000+ odd businesses in Dharavi with the consolidated turnover of approximately USD 500 million. This is a slum where people don’t go out in search of jobs, but people from across Mumbai come here for their bread and butter. People need to know these things about Dharavi and that’s how we came up with DharaviCAN.
Google has carried out a similar exercise with businesses at Chandni Chowk. How is Dharavi CAN different?
Google India has their vision of bringing the businesses in India online and they are targeting the established business hubs of India. We have our own vision to uplift the various sections of society by helping them to harness the power of the Internet. We started with our campaign called ‘India-can’ around six months back to provide the taste of the Internet to various sections of society and bring them visible on the web. Our Project ‘Dharavi CAN’ is under the same campaign where we are trying to bring the various businesses of the so called Asia’s biggest slum visible on the web which can bring a change in the way we all currently see Dharavi as.
From engineering to management studies to social projects, what was the motivation behind this movement?
Well, I like to experiment and while I was working as a software Engineer before joining IIM Indore for my higher studies, I got the opportunity to work with the core team of a city based NGO and while working with them, I actually saw the ‘not-so-privileged’ sections of the society and trust me, they were out of my imagination. If we don’t come forward and help them, then who else will do so?
Management education is definitely giving me an edge to efficiently plan and bring my ideas to execution phase. Also, being a software engineer, I have good insight about web technology and I am trying to use my learning for the betterment of the society.
What do you aim to achieve through this project?
There are 3 things which we want to achieve through this project:
- Spreading awareness about Internet and Technology in Dharavi region and how well the local businesses can leverage the power of Internet in their day to day business.
- With increasing internet traffic, we believe that this initiative will help entrepreneurs in attracting more customers which will eventually increase their revenues.
- The privileged sections of the society who see or know about this place just as a slum may now start talking about the entrepreneur part or the self-sustained economy of this region.
What were the challenges of this project?
To start with, limited time and financial resources were our biggest challenges. Our team stayed for a week in a cyber café to execute this project. Thanks to Umakanta Patro, managing trustee of Just Help foundation who agreed to support us during execution and Hostgator India for partnering with us and supporting us with all sorts of Infrastructure requirements.
How did you plan to scale up this project?
Scaling up was one of the most difficult tasks for us. Fortunately, we got support from a local partner of Dharavi who helped us in reaching more than 1000 small and medium scale businesses across Dharavi region. We got a good response from these businesses and many agreed to be a part of the campaign. Hostgator India team will also help these businesses with full-fledged web support if the business demands for.
Post implementation of this initiative, what is the outcome you are expecting?
Post implementation, we are expecting the creation of better business opportunities for the business owners. This small move can help them realize the power of technology and the internet. Currently, the cumulative size of these businesses is around $750 million and we are expecting a 8-10 % rise in the figure with the help of our initiative.
Is Dharavi CAN a sustainable idea? If yes, how do you support this claim?
We cannot say for sure at this moment as we attempted to bring a two way change: first, the way people see Dharavi as and second, the awareness about internet and websites in this underprivileged society. Even if business owners easily adopt the technology part of the initiative and start using it for better growth of their businesses, we cannot say that we succeeded. To make this initiative sustainable in the long term, most important thing is to change the outlook of people towards Dharavi. If we manage to do so in coming days, we would be more than happy.
What is the future of Dharavi CAN?
Currently, the businesses which participated in our campaign would be online for 6 months and later, based on the business owner’s response, we shall plan to extend the online period.
Any message for those considering social entrepreneurship as a future?
I believe in ISR (Individual Social Responsibility). Every individual should feel responsible and come forward to improve the existing systems. This is the real use of education and our learning. It is not mandatory to be involved full time; one can do it easily by maintaining a balance between your existing priorities. Think about smaller issues around you and act on how you can change that.
You can watch the glimpse of DharaviCAN on following link: