In many ways, the entire diamond pipeline, from mining to retailing, has hardly changed in decades, with the exception of online sales and a long list of technological innovations that mostly have to do with other aspects of the diamond industry. In fact, where small developments did take place, most want to reverse the changes, saying they are destroying the trade: price lists, online sales, transparency, even diamond certificates, are all frowned upon by a sizable group of people.
The yearning for a reversal even sets expectations for marketing, with continued demands, politely phrased as requests, that the mining sector foot the tab for generic marketing.
Time for change
Let’s state it plainly: it’s time for a paradigm shift. The diamond industry must look ahead and evolve, or risk being stuck in the past and decline. The industrial revolution took away the traditional artisanal way of limited manufacturing, giving way to mass production at lower cost. It has been a century and a half since then, and the global economy is entering a new revolution.
No, it’s not clear, many historic changes are understood only in retrospect, but consider the following: the Internet set information free, brought media of all kinds to new heights of exposure. Now this is coming to the “Real World.” In his eye-opening book Makers, Chris Anderson describes a rising class of entrepreneurs that are brining a manufacturing revolution to the desktop.
“The world’s factories are now increasingly open to anyone via the web, creating what amounts to ‘cloud’ manufacturing. And huge “Maker communities” have grown around sites such as Kickstarter and Etsy,” he said in a recent interview in The Atlantic Cities.
He compares it to the advent of desktop publishing, which reduced centuries of printing and typesetting expertise “to cheap software that anyone could use. (…) [P]retty quickly anybody could make a professional-looking page.”
Is this something we need to consider? If kids can now design a toy on their iPad and send it to a factory in China for manufacturing, why won’t we offer that to our clients?
Some already took the plunge?
Anderson mentions Etsy, but a better jewelry example is Plukka.com, which is applying the group buying process to manufacturing. They don’t make a product unless enough people want to buy it, and the more consumers want it, the less the jewelry item costs.
That is a revolution in the making because they are offering jewelry manufacturers a way to offer a design without risking the cost of mass producing an undesired product. One upside is that traditionally cautious manufacturers can be very bold in their designs and be pleasantly surprised by, yes, you guessed it – differentiation!
To move in this direction requires gutsy, plucky if you will, entrepreneurship. It starts with vision and continues with strategic planning. Those brave enough to take the leap will reap the rewards.