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Local production of customized items will fuel ecommerce for decades to come

BlogMar 6 2021

By Henrik Müller-Hansen, Founder and CEO of Gelato

Last fall, a member of the Māori tribe and a local driver for innovation and entrepreneurship in the rural community of Tolaga Bay in New Zealand reached out to me on Linkedin. She had read about production on-demand, and how it can enable artists or entrepreneurs to sell customized products ranging from artwork and books to hoodies, and share it with customers anywhere in the world.

We helped them get started, and a few weeks later Lily and a group of Māori entrepreneurs launched their Shopify stores and started selling products with their own designs through our platform. They invited me to the online launch of their stores and I sat there watching as they performed a beautiful, Māori folk song. I will never forget that moment because it was such a powerful manifestation of what our platform empowers people to do, and how technology can help form connections and livelihoods beyond borders, from one local community to another.

Empowering artists to go global and local partners to grow their business

This past year has demonstrated the vulnerability of global supply chains. Some retailers report that the cost of shipping a container of goods from Asia to Europe has multiplied by six, and bottlenecks and backlogs cause major delays.

What we are witnessing is, in our view, not just a result of the pandemic, but an acceleration of pre-existing trends that demonstrate the power that can be unlocked by local production.

Imagine a world where rather than shipping the products we buy across the globe, we can have them produced in local digital fabrication hubs and delivered to our doorstep in a matter of hours. A supply chain that is shorter, more resilient and much faster, and that at the same time supports local businesses and fosters stronger communities.

Rather than asking what will change after the pandemic, we have asked ourselves what will not. We believe that local production and delivery have arrived and is here to stay.

Ecommerce is not a zero-sum game

At Gelato, we believe that ecommerce is not only paving the way for big brands, but for any entrepreneur who wants to sell his or her creativity to a global audience. And for them, the digital toolbox has never been bigger.

With ecommerce platforms like Shopify, anyone can open up an ecommerce store overnight (and so they are. The pandemic has accelerated ecommerce growth in the US to $800 billion this year, up more than 30%, a level that before COVID-19 was expected to arrive around 2022). Companies like Stripe help facilitate online payments, and companies like Gelato provide a platform for production on-demand on which any brand can can design, produce and sell their products without investing in or keeping inventory, worrying about cross-border shipping or minimum orders.

Today our network consists of roughly 100 local producers in 30 countries, including Brazil, Russia, India and China. This network has plenty of room for both small and large companies to grow across different product categories supporting the surge in the ecommerce space for years to come.

Local creativity shared globally

Creativity is born in individuals and teams sitting across the world. It is shaped in the minds, hands and hearts of artists, creators and entrepreneurs - from Tolaga Bay in New Zealand to an entrepreneur in Toronto or Shanghai.

We also believe this creativity should be shared through local production, which makes it possible for not only larger companies to distribute their products worldwide, but for indigenous populations, the artist living in the deep Norwegian woods, or the many people who have taken the leap towards a new career - most by choice, some by necessity.

One key driver for us at Gelato is our customers’ imagination and visions. They tell us what’s next. And to the entrepreneurs of Tolaga Bay - thank you for reminding us why it matters.

Read more about why Gelato is global, yet local