Monday, December 15, 2008

Green and Sustainable While Creating and Conducting Business

Learn From Dwellers of Dharavi (Asia's Biggest Slum) Who Know How To

I was involved in innovation related to sustainability in products and services with a hard green focus in Denmark in 2006 and early 2007 with Ms. Frederrike Kroon of MCS. Ms. Kroon's organization has developed fundamental breakthroughs in how to think about sustainability, see examples here. I can say with confidence that the Danish represent the highest level of thinking, acting and living sustainably in comparison to anywhere else in the world. Don't take my word for it, visit Denmark yourself!

Yet, due to the recent barge of the West in asking and trying to teach the East about green and living in harmony with nature, recycling, etc. including many of my friends, MBA students I have lectured, etc. I started to look back through my experiences in South Asia - to discover whether South Asia does or does not know how to recycle, to live while maximizing the value of manufactured products and returning them for reuse in new formats, etc.

Low and behold - the West, specifically the USA has a lot to learn from the East.

I would like to introduce Asia's biggest slum - Dharavi, ~430 acres in the suburbs of Mumbai, India. See details on Wikipedia here.

An article in the Economist "A Soul-Searching Business" here claims "The slum-dwellers of Dharavi are green". A quote from the article:

"Like Hindu souls, disposable plastic cups are many times reborn in Dharavi. In a spiralling continuum, they are discarded and gathered in, melted down to their polypropylene essence, and re-moulded in some new plastic form. Recycling is one of the slum's biggest industries. Thousands of tonnes of scrap plastic, metals, paper, cotton, soap and glass revolve through Dharavi each day."

See a dedicated to Dharavi website - showcasing all the small communities and commercial efforts here.

Dharavi is one example of similar communities spread across the South Asia that are hubs of innovation in business and recycling. See an excellent documentary on business there below.

I have stated before and I truly believe that "Satiated People Do Not Innovate". This has been the experience of my life. See an article from the Economist on the residents of Asia's biggest slum Dharavi thriving and creating new business out of hardship here. The article states:

"At 7am the early shift begins in Dharavi's 15,000 hutment factories. Typically, they consist of one or two jerry-built storeys, stuffed with boys and men sewing cotton, melting plastic, hammering iron and moulding clay. Indeed, it is for its industry, not its size, that Dharavi is most distinctive. The clothes, pots, toys and recycled materials its residents produce earn them millions of dollars in annual exports alone. As the sun climbs over Dharavi, a rising timpani of metal on metal, a whirring of small machinery, indicate that the working-day has begun."

See my previous post on alternate fuel based automotive in Pakistan here.

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