Gary Mao

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Gary Mao

2016 Global Fellow
Founder of TOTO Express

Gary Mao 2016 Global Fellow

Bold Idea 

Increase artisan income while keeping village traditions in tact in India by digitizing local art, providing intellectual property education, and expanding market access.


Photo courtesy of Roots Studio.


TOTO Express works to help artisans take back control of their artisan business by managing more elements of the value chain that have historically been filled with intermediaries. We build alternative digital tools that simplifies or automates shipping, payments, and communication with end users and enable business models beyond consignment relationships and one off sales. We achieve this via a three-fold process of providing hardware, training artisans, and building partnerships with end users. Our vision is to enable sustainable commerce from the village that celebrates the vibrant cultures maintained there and nurture a new generation of artisans to take the culture forward.


Gary Mao is founder of TOTO Express, a company that provides the technology and training for rural communities to digitize their art and unlock new monetization channels for their skills. Gary built his first business at 21 and went on to build several other businesses in China, India, and the United States, from food businesses to engineer matchmaking services. In India, he and his co-founder formulated their idea for TOTO Express as they piloted an education project where they tore apart a 50-seater bus and turned it into a mobile classroom for deep jungle localities in India. It was through this project that Gary saw the power of income generation to enable things like education. Simultaneously, he saw the untapped artistic talent that was fundamental to the identities of the millions of artisan communities in India. At this point it became a no-brainer to combine these elements, leveraging art to improve livelihoods. Gary is also a MBA graduate from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and their 2015 Social Innovation Fellow.

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