Will teddy bears and toy guns give way to desi games as a new line of thinking invades the toy world? Industry poised for change as first-ever National Toy Show begins next month

Parapadam, aadu puli aatam, solah seed, ashta chema, pallankuji…. does this sound familiar to you? These are all traditional game names that Chennai-based Vinita Sidhartha started resurrecting 18 years ago, thanks to her “concept toy” company Kreeda.

As she continues to release toys based on Indigenous cultural and value systems, Vinita says the answer has turned from doubt to ‘wow’. She advocates learning through play and emphasizes that aadu puli aatam is all about strategizing and critical thinking, while pallanguzhi teaches counting and dispensing.

National Toy Fair

This emphasis on tradition appears to be the foundation for Toycathon 2021, a government initiative to create innovative toys and play concepts. Open to students, toy designers and start-ups, the push to go local is strong. There’s also the first National Toy Fair, a four-day event that kicks off on February 27. To be held virtually, it will bring together international and national players under one roof and showcase an industry that has so far been in the shadows, but has the potential to become one of the country’s biggest sources of income.

Calling this a “very big opportunity”, Sharad Kapoor, secretary general of the Toy Association of India, said: “This is a beacon of hope for an industry which employs two and a half million workers, 50% of whom are workers. women”. Currently, the retail value of the Indian toy market is around 16,000 crore, 75% of which is imports from China. “The retail value of our domestic production is only around 6,000 crore and it comes mainly from manufacturing,” says Kapoor, explaining that 75% is from micro-industries, 22% from MSMEs and only 3% from large units.

The space for a big change began when the government called on affiliate ministries and state governments to kickstart the industry and also introduced BIS certification for safety. “This certification became mandatory from January 1, 2021, and anything that does not meet the standards will not be allowed,” Kapoor said, adding that the move had triggered a backlash from manufacturers to invest in better machines and more. large.

In addition, a number of state governments have allocated dedicated spaces for cities and toy parks. The 100-acre facility along the Yamuna Highway near Delhi has already seen 115 factories move to the premises; Koppal in Karnataka is emerging as a toy hub, and Gujarat is considering a ready-made industrial zone for toy makers, in addition to launching the country’s only toy museum.

“If we as an industry improve, then there is a great future for us,” says Kapoor.

Red rocking horse.

Red rocking horse.

Educational toys vs recreational toys

However, Simon Jacob, who created Toiing with Kartik Talwar in 2013, is cautiously optimistic. When they started to create toys for learning to play, Indian brands were in short supply. “The Indian toy market is largely disorganized and includes wholesalers, importers and manufacturers. It is very price sensitive. So many possibilities have opened up for toy makers that “we’re trying to make sense of what’s possible,” he says. Toiing’s educational toys like Memory Toy and Rock Art are developed by a team that includes parents, teachers and psychologists. Anger Slayer helps kids let go of their anger in a healthy way.

Dinesh Advani of PlayShifu points out that educational toys are the largest and fastest growing segment in the industry. As a young dad in 2015, he decided, along with Vivek Goyal, that screen time should be productive for children. As tech enthusiasts, they began to research learning solutions and “explored the possibilities of augmented reality.” We found that we could retain the tactile experience and add a rich layer of digital interactivity to create unique play experiences and help children move through stages of cognitive, creative, and linguistic development. And that’s how PlayShifu was born in 2017. Orboot Earth, an augmented reality globe encourages children to explore all of its secrets, from cuisine and culture to inventions and fantastic facts. “Children can scan our globe and bring all the wonders of the world to life, in 3D. “

Till now, Indian toys have faced their biggest challenge with cheap and attractive Chinese electronic toys. “China provided us with chips. But now IITs are getting involved in special toy design and electronics courses to work with the industry, ”says Kapoor, whose Delhi-based company Kreative Kids International makes toys based on characters from. cartoons and popular storybooks. He also refers to the change in the Ride On segment, where battery cars were previously imported from China. “Not anymore,” he said.

As the excitement builds and the pressure for a desi flavor in games and toys increases, will toy guns and teddy bears be replaced by educational technology-based toys that keep us rooted in? Indian philosophy? We will find out soon enough.