India’s ambitious plan of becoming AtmaNirbhar starts with reviving its long dead Toy Industry.
Almost 2 months back, PM Modi gave the nation the slogan - Vocal for Local, however, its first task came now in the form of India made toys. Although it appears to be a golden opportunity and win-win situation to push India made products, generate employment, and give a boost to the economy, the Indian toy industry has a long list of challenges lying in its course ahead.
The Indian toy industry which dates back to almost 8000 years i.e. the Indus valley civilization, currently accounts for a mere 0.5% of the global toy market share. A more concerning fact in respect to the Indian toy industry is that 80% of the Indian toy market is ruled by China imported toys. This very fact presents before us the daunting task that the Indian toy industry faces today. With India having increased the import duty, this challenge of achieving atma nirbharta has become more complex.
For India to become a toy manufacturing hub, the dose of motivation and aspiration isn’t enough. Despite the fact that the industry holds immense business potential, the current less than 20% of local toy manufacturers which are scattered across states with workforce of less than 100 or even 50 are not in the state to take on its competitor which is the world’s factory.
Let us have a closer look at what India needs to deal with to put on a decent fight in this tough game.
Business Environment : For mass production India needs to set up huge factories and dedicated facilities. Setting up of the 400 acre SEZ at Koppal, India’s first toy manufacturing cluster is the step in the right direction. Setting up such manufacturing zones and clusters would create employment opportunities in significant numbers and thus resulting in mass production and lower costs.
However, as the majority of India’s current toy manufacturers are small and unorganized and cannot afford huge facilities, it is necessary for the government to set up aids in form of low infrastructural costs and easy loans facilities and business orders.
Labour : Toy making requires skilled workforce in large numbers. Because the majority of India's toy making sector falls under the unorganised category, having skilled labor and a database for the same becomes more challenging. To attract workers towards this sector and to generate employment opportunities, the government needs to bring major reforms in the labor laws. Fixed wages, hiring based on demand, inclusion of women in the workforce, flexible laws for staffing, and training sessions are some of the suggested measures the toy sector needs on priority basis.
Technology : Although Indian roots are connected with puppet dolls, clay toys, and wooden building blocks, the toy industry needs serious technological and trend based upgradation. In the era of remote control cars and video games, India cannot remain attached to it’s primitive roots.
One of the major shortcomings in the Indian toy industry are the machinery, skills, and facilities Indian toy makers lack to manufacture electronic toys. Electronic and battery driven toys dominate the toy market in India and across the world. Foray of the Indian industry into this segment can attract international business orders as well as investments in the industry. As PM Modi mentioned in his Mann ki Baat address, startups sure can play a key role in helping Indian toy industry unlock the technology segment.
Quality : India needs to focus on mass production in line with its quality norms. The government’s latest move of setting up quality norms and BIS standards for toy imports will also help local manufacturers. As per QCI’s data a whooping 67% of toy imports fail to qualify the quality test.
In addition to replacing China in the local market, having quality as its priority will help Indian manufacturers produce toys of global quality, thus helping attract international orders and give a boost to the export sector. Producing top-most quality products will help India attract global investments and associate brands with it, thus further creating opportunities in the sector.
Distribution Channels : With the exponential rise of e-commerce in the country and not just in Tier 1 states, rather in rural markets as well, online marketplaces can be explored exclusively to give a push to locally manufactured toys. In line with the government’s initiatives, online channels are catering to the anti-China trend in the country and are helping local brands come at the forefront. In addition to e-retail, offline retailers, direct-to-consumer channels, supermarkets, departmental stores, and local toy shops also present a wide scope of opportunities for made in India products.
Restrictions owing to Covid, Indians riding high on the anti-China sentiment, and stricter norms and challenges placed on toy imports by the government has turned the world’s attention towards Indian toy market. Consequently which has fuelled the local industry to prep and cater to international demands.
This push to local toy manufacturing is a much awaited step and has opened plethora of opportunities for the unorganised toy sector of India. A combination of major structural reforms by the government, initiatives by startups and the tech sector of the country, push for innovation and creativity in the sector, and credits and loans facilities by financial institutions can help the Indian toy industry hit the bulls eye and become a leading player in the global market.