Slums of MumbaiDharavi, one of the slums of Mumbai, ranks alongside the world’s biggest slums. It is home to around 1 million people. The area is overcrowded, unhygienic and a generally difficult place to live. Concerns over living conditions, however, seem not to bother the residents. This area also happens to be home to several innovative individuals. From trade and business, just as complex as the real world, to cricket leagues and entertainment, the Mumbai slums are an intriguing place once there are no stereotypes. Here is a story of the slums of Mumbai: a world inside a world.

Trade and Business

Dharavi, Mumbai’s largest slum settlement, has a remarkably diverse and active business sector. Hundreds of thousands of people engage in this thriving world of trade from innovative producers to keen buyers. There are around 5,000 businesses that generate over $1 billion in total revenue. The successes of these businesses ensure a stable, healthy and happy lifestyle not just for slum residents, but for the poorer Indian community as a whole.

The innovative trade of recycling, specifically talented craftsmen turning recycled goods into all manner of things, plays a significant role in the slums thriving business sector. Dharavi recycles around 60% of Mumbai’s plastic waste and this business employs up to 12,000 people. From the manufacturing process to product making, the recycling business in Dharavi provides jobs and opportunities for people of all skill sets.

Other industries such as leather and textiles enable further trade both externally and within the borders of the slums. From goat and sheep skin, talented textile artists are able to make various leather products that find use locally and all the way up to high-end fashion, with global brands like Giorgio Armani utilizing the leather goods!

There are around 300 bakeries in Dharavi that mainly specialize in papadom making. This provides both stable incomes for the bakers (women can earn up to 100 rupees) and food for local residents. The benefit of providing food is particularly important as food can be scarce in the Mumbai slums, as reported by Global Citizen.


Art acts as an important contributor to the cultural influence the slums have. Amazing street art is littered all around the slums of Mumbai that depict the realities of slum living. Sassoon Docks, for example, is a thriving street art center known for the artists’ collaboration with local fishermen, their environmental activism and their embodiment of Mumbai’s fishing traditions. Artwork like this has attracted tourists, writers and photographers from all over the world, enriching the slum’s cultural impact.

The Mumbai slums are also a musically gifted place. A Hip-Hop culture that has now been present for more than a decade has dominated the music scene in the slums of Mumbai. Hip-Hop artists such as Dopeadelicz and SlumGods have all had success in India’s rap scene. Artists like these have helped Indian Hip-Hop grow and expand the cultural influence of the Mumbai slum music scene.


Slum golf is a recent phenomenon that has taken hold in the slums of Mumbai. As the name suggests, it is golf that people play within the narrow alleys and pathways of the Mumbai slums. Golf would usually be an inaccessible, “rich” sport in the eyes of slum residents but with just clubs and a ball, golf enthusiasts are able to play the game they love.

Cricket, as with most of India, is an integral part of the day-to-day life of slum residents. And their love for the sport has created a vibrant culture of cricket. Many leagues within the slums have been set up, and this has given access to people with varying abilities to play. Street cricket (with improvised rules) is also massive in the slums. For instance, hitting out of the playing area means you are out as you have lost the ball!

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenging living conditions in Mumbai’s slums, a vibrant world exists within, filled with innovative businesses, captivating art and a passion for sports. The bustling trade sector generates significant revenue, employing thousands and benefiting the entire community. Art and music add cultural richness to the slums, attracting global attention. Additionally, slum residents find joy in unique sports like slum golf and cricket, fostering a sense of community and providing opportunities for all skill levels. The slums of Mumbai defy stereotypes, showcasing resilience, creativity and a spirit of determination.

– Max Steventon
Photo: Flickr

While the Wimbledon Tennis Championship has just ended, some of the world’s best athletes’ work doesn’t end on the court. Martina Hingis, a 2017 winner of the Wimbledon Doubles league, has promoted and discussed her ‘fourth career’ as an ambassador for Right to Play. Right to Play is one of many nonprofit organizations promoting sports to empower and educate children from poor backgrounds. Here are four organizations ending poverty through sport:

  1. Ball to All
    Founded in Scottsdale, Arizona, Ball to All is an organization that provides soccer balls for underprivileged children. Founder Ori Eisen created the charity in 2003 after providing a friend, Nikolas Mangu, with five soccer balls before his travels back to his home country of Kenya. When Nikolas delivered the balls to a local school, the children celebrated the simple gift.Since the first delivery, Ball to All has delivered 9,426 balls to children of developing nations. Ball to All is one of the organizations ending poverty through sport by providing the basic tools for childhood development. Ball to All ambassadors believes that the organization provides children more than just a tool for play. They also believe, by taking part in sports, children are less likely to be negatively influenced by extremist groups, are made to feel important and are kept out of trouble.
  2. Peace Players International
    Peace Players International (PPI) uses basketball as a tool to provide unity, education, and inspiration to children around the world. The organization began in Northern Ireland to bridge the divides between religion, prejudice and racism through sport and create greater social cohesion. With great success, the organization spread to 15 countries by 2010 and provided specific programs for each local climate.In Jerusalem, where violence and political instability frequently reoccur, PPI uses sport to unite Arab and Jewish youth. However, in South Africa, the focus is more on providing safe and successful outcomes through sport for communities impacted by HIV/AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse or high unemployment.

    In a Sport for Development and Peace report, the U.N. states that for sports programs to be successful in creating change in developing countries, the sport must be all-inclusive. PPI does just that by focusing on the groups that would not usually have an opportunity to participate in sports leagues or groups that would not usually play together.

  3. Right to Play
    Johann Olav Koss, the four-time Olympic medalist, founded Right to Play in 2000. He was inspired by a humanitarian trip to Eritrea, where the children wanted the same as any other child: to play.The organization uses voluntary coaches to implement sports programs educating children about leadership, health issues and employment opportunities. The programs spread across 20 countries and tailor to the specific scenarios of each country.

    By introducing after-school programs to underprivileged areas, Right to Play improved school enrollment and attendance rates. In Rwanda, students who took part in Right to Play’s programs maintained a 95 percent attendance rate in school. With this and many other successes, several governments recognize Right to Play as one of the organizations ending poverty through sport.

    Every week, Right to Play reaches one million youths around the world with half of the children being young girls. By improving schooling outcomes and providing all-inclusive programs that close the gender gap, Right to Play improves opportunities for children in developing economies and promotes a healthy lifestyle.

  4. United Through Sport
    The U.K.-based charity United Through Sport focuses on development through sport. With programs in Africa, South America and upcoming in Asia, United Through Sport provides two main programs to underprivileged youth. The Mass Participation Program provides thousands of children the chance to play whilst promoting health and education. Further, the Schools of Excellence program offers top-level coaching and schooling necessary for aspiring athletes.With direct coaching, disadvantaged communities obtain health benefits, emotional development and life skills such as decision making and leadership. The organization also delivers an interactive curriculum through sport on serious topics affecting the communities involved. The organization has taught more than 100,000 hours of HIV and AIDS prevention through the sports curriculum. Additionally, by providing professional opportunities that would not otherwise be available to the individuals of the program, United Through Sport provides a pathway for dedicated participants to receive scholarships at top local and international schools.

    United Through Sport works with more than 56,000 children and 90% of participants of its programs saw academic improvements. The organization has proven to not only provide the basics of child development but also the tools to better the future economic success of the individuals involved. Through its programs, United Through Sport stands as one of the organizations ending poverty through sport.

Sport is being used as a tool for development. While Ball to All, PPI, Right to Play and United Through Sport can’t solve all the issues of developing countries, sport can create positive change. By educating the young and promoting equality for all genders, religions, and creeds, the organizations form inclusive economies. The United Nations has stated that sport is a human right and essential for childhood development. By using sport to reduce poverty, individuals of every age can lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Tess Hinteregger

Photo: Flickr