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CatGen is an open-source e-commerce platform created by PEOPLink and used to bring artisans in the South in direct contact with western markets.



From NextBillion.Net:

"PEOPLink launched the first online crafts catalog in 1995. Although financially successful, it’s impact and scalability was limited. Realizing that it made more developmental sense to have the artisans themselves manage their info, the company released its first version of CatGen in 2000. Now in its 4th revision, the software “enables any enterprise anywhere to create its own web catalog. It operates off-line for low bandwidth situations and generates catalogs with many sophisticated features such as credit card payments via PayPal, and ability to print paper catalogs or burn them to CDs."

Although the CatGen client can upload an artisan’s catalog of products to any low cost server, for $100/yr they can host their catalogs on the CatGen server. For their extra investment, artisans receive search engine optimization (meaning a higher placement in Google searches), web traffic statistics, and the ability to participate in _searchable marketplaces_ [5]. By increasing the number of potential customers reached, these extra features may in fact pay for themselves.

Dr. Salcedo mentioned a couple of lessons he’s learned over the years. First, the key to the successful use of CatGen is having a local partner who can provide technical support, business assistance and training. He likened CatGen to the ‘brain’ of a living system; without the arms, legs, and other vital organs, the brain will die. Telecenters can offer some of these support systems, and in turn help improve their own financial viability. Second, the application can be useful in even the most remote areas. He shared _an example_ [6] of an entrepreneur that set up his own successful e-commerce business using a solar-powered laptop and a cellphone for connectivity. Finally, to reduce shipping costs, artisans use the ‘LIBIBO’ method: little boxes inside big ones. By shipping orders in bulk once a month, transportation costs can be reduced by as much as 80%.

What’s next for PEOPLink and CatGen? The organization has tied up with eBay, which plans to launch its own Artisan Marketplace within a few months. PEOPLink will act as an ‘_infomediary_ [7]’ between the artist and eBay, helping artisans post their items to the online auction site and increasing trust in the transaction by the consumer. The goal is to have 13,000 – 15,000 artisans selling through the site by the end of 2006." ([1])

More Information

See Open Source for Artisans

Catgen, at