Billionaire Adani leads race to remodel world’s biggest slum

Residents walk through a street along the Dharavi slums, on Nov 2, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI – Adani Group, controlled by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, is the highest bidder in an ambitious project to remodel the world’s largest slum.

Adani bid 50.7 billion rupees (S$853 million) while closest rival DLF quoted 20.25 billion rupees, SVR Srinivas, metropolitan commissioner at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, said by phone.

The Dharavi slum is spread over roughly 620 acres and is sandwiched between the city’s new financial district and its main airport, though it’s as yet unclear how much land the winning bidder could acquire. 

“This is one of the world’s biggest urban renewal projects, brownest of the brownfield projects,” Mr Srinivas said. “There are many complexities involved, from class to religion to ethnicity; it’s a maze we have to look through.”

With a population of 1 million, Dharavi is densely packed where as many as 80 people share a public toilet. It’s about 5km from Mumbai’s key business district that’s home to India’s biggest stock exchange and the local headquarters of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and yet its residents are mostly migrant laborers from villages thousands of miles away who labor for daily wages. 

Before the pandemic, Dharavi generated more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) a year in activity, providing a base for industries from pottery and leather-tanning to recycling and the garment trade. 

Representatives for Adani and DLF declined to comment.

“With this, the real estate sector in Mumbai is set for huge traction,” said Abhimanyu Kasliwal, an analyst with Choice Equity Broking Pvt. “Just like the cement sector was re-rated following Adani’s entry, we can expect the same for real estate.” BLOOMBERG

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