India has a rich history in toy making however, the Indian toy market makes up only half a percent of the global toy industry which stands at a whopping $90 billion. How did India fall behind countries like the US and China, when we had toy-making traditions that can be traced back to thousands of years?
Indian toy makers started losing their market share during the liberalisation period when the economy opened up to the rest of the world. Chinese imports started to flood Indian stores and soon became hugely popular amongst the public, largely due to the inexpensiveness of these toy. Several Indian toy firms shut shop during this period as it became impossible for them to compete against the superior Chinese toys. Though Chinese toys are much cheaper due to them being produced in bulk, they are quite harmful to adults and especially children as a lot of chemicals and non-organic substances are used in their bulk manufacturing processes. Indian firms are not able to compete against cheap toys from China, despite producing a best quality of them. Chinese toy makers were given a bundle of incentives and tax reduction by the Chinese government which has been non-existent in India in the past. The Chinese government provides protection and various benefits like subsidies on the purchase of land or machines, subsidies/incentives to firms exporting toys, extended credit at cheap interest rates along with a host of other initiatives and programs.
Recently, India’s PM — Narendra Modi spoke about India’s minuscule share of the global toy pie and implored entrepreneurs to team up and start to produce toys locally. Vocal for Local toys is one such initiative that aims at empowering toy artisans in Karnataka and rest of India to continue preserving our rich traditions. In line with Modi’s vision of vocal for local and boosting the domestic toy economy, Koppal (a district in Karnataka) will have India’s first toy-manufacturing cluster. The ecosystem to support the toy cluster will be a 400-acre SEZ having top-class infrastructure and will be able to generate 40,000 jobs in the next 5 years. While the initiative looks very promising, only time will tell if efficient execution will be carried out.