Will India ever produce an iconic doll like the Barbie? Only time will tell. However, with new quality controls in place and measures to bring the Indian toy sector at par with international standards, the Indian toy industry is seeing a revival.
The latest government data shows that the import of toys came down by 70% in the last three years and the exports have jumped by 61.38%. This came after the government issued a Quality Control Order in 2020 through which toys were brought under compulsory Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) certification. This brought down the number of Chinese toy manufacturing companies dominating the Indian market.
Speaking to News18, Yashwinder Singh Kohli, director of Dimpy Soft Toys, said: “Indian market has been traditionally dominated by Chinese products because they are cheaper. However, the new quality control measures have filtered out many products from China. In an episode of ‘Mann ki Baat’, our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had asked manufacturers to rebrand the Indian Toy Story. He also emphasised on spreading Indian values and wisdom among children through our indigenous toys. Due to the push by the government in this direction, all manufacturers increased capacity of production and increased exports.”
Kohli added that since toy making is a labour-intensive industry, it creates employment for thousands of people. He said that though his company makes soft toys, it will eventually venture into manufacturing products based on Indian mythological characters.
Manu Gupta from Playgro Toys International Private Limited said that the government’s steps have provided a level playing field to everyone in a market where Chinese toys were over-subsidised.
“We now have eight toy manufacturing clusters in the country to boost the production of traditional toys. Indian manufacturing fraternity is learning how to make safe toys because of the Quality Control Order. These products match international standards that are accepted by most countries around the world.”
Talking about other developments in the sector, he added: “The National Action Plan on Toys, in which 15 ministries are involved, is going to help manufacturers in various aspects like production and marketing. The USP of India toys is that a large array of toys – wooden, plastic, electric etc. – will be available at competitive prices while meeting all safety standards.”
Earlier, toys manufactured by a few Chinese companies were blacklisted due to the presence of toxic, heavy metals like lead in them. They were also found to have sharp edges that do not meet the desired contour requirements.
Basic Custom Duty (BCD) on Toys-HS Code-9503 was increased from 20% to 60% in 2020. This measure made import of toys costlier and thus helped in increasing the production of traditional items.
Vasanth Tamilselvan, founder of Ariro wooden toys, said: “Anti-China sentiment in the last two years and the increase in duty have contributed to the sale of our toys made on Montessori principles. They are made from neem wood which is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. They do not cause the children any harm. Our toys are hand-made by artisans based in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other states. We use vegetable dyes to add colour to our products. An increase in demand for these items will directly translate to more employment opportunities for our artisans.”
As for a replacement for Barbie, Gupta feels that India’s very own ‘Chhota Bheem’ has managed to carve out a dedicated following. As more and more toy clusters are developed, we can hope that more characters like him will jump international borders and become companions for children from different nationalities.