According to the All India Toy Manufacturers’ Association, the country’s toy market is worth around Rs 4,000 crore. The central government’s National Productivity Council puts the figure at an estimated Rs 8,000 crore, of which over 60 per cent is unorganised.
Manu Gupta, director, Play Grow, a maker of indoor and outdoor toys that include swings, seesaws and electric cars, says there’s an opportunity here, provided a few factors are kept in mind. “The toy market is populated by foreign makers, many of whom sell electronic products and whose toys fall in the luxury segment. To compete with them, we would need design and innovation centres as well as a rationalisation of GST (Goods and Services Tax),” he says. Electronic toys command a GST of 18 per cent, while regular toys are taxed at 12 per cent GST. The industry wants it reduced to 5 per cent, or lower.
Currently, the domestic toy market share is small, about 25 per cent, with China claiming the dragon’s portion, says Ajay Agarwal, president of the Toy Association of India. And while India has between 300 and 500 organised players, there are thousands in the unorganised sector, and they deal largely in wooden, plastics and electronics toys, he says, adding, “A national policy promotion board would go a long way in supporting the sector.”
The mood in the toy market, meanwhile, is somber. Business is slow. A lot of toys for younger children, such as blocks or grasping toys, focus on touch and feel, essential for the child’s mental and motor skill development. But with the emphasis on keeping the environment around us sanitised, given the raging pandemic, parents are wary of handing toys that children might put in their mouths.
This dip in enthusiasm is visible at the usually bustling Hamleys store in Worli, Mumbai. There are only a handful of children accompanied by their parents walking around the store, which sells everything — from playdough to drones. The British toy retailer, which Reliance Brands bought in 2019, also sells high-end motorised toys, some of which cost as much as an entry-level motorcycle.
A sales associate at the store says most parents are coming for board games such as Monopoly and Game of Thrones and also for drones. “Board games are always popular, and more so in these times when everyone is home,” agrees Shobhit Singh, director of Gujarat-based Stone Sapphire, a manufacturer and distributor of toys. Business, however, is less than half of what it used to be, adds the Hamleys sales associate.
The unanimous view is that to boost the domestic toy sector, the government needs to remove some hurdles and ease the path. Mehta lists some expectations: “Procurement and allotment of land, strong infrastructure such as power, water, sewage and commuting services as well as licences and easy loans for toy manufacturers. In a nutshell, the attitude towards the toy industry has to change.”