Toying with New Ideas

80 percent of the time, if one had entered a toy store in India a few years ago, they would have seen a product labelled 'Made in China'. This is due to the oversupply of imported toys in the Indian market, with eight out of every ten toys sold being primarily imported from China. Even though the Indian toy industry has a long history, only 20 percent of the domestic market was made up of toys made in India.

In 2014-­15, toy imports were six times greater than toy exports, at Rs.328 crore and Rs.1,936 crore, respectively. Due to a lack of technology and investment, as well as competition from low-cost imports, the industry was stagnant. Traditional toys had long been forgotten, and local industry was fragmented.

Even while the toy manufacturing sector in India had double-digit growth in 2014­15, some 40 percent of those businesses had already shut down, and another 20 percent were on the cusp of doing so. The production levels of those who remained were either unchanged or decreasing. Then in the last three years, something changed. From being a net importer, the Indian toy industry turned into a net foreign exchange earner. India's import of toys fell by 70 percent from $371 million in 2018-19 to $110 million in 2021-22, while exports rose by 61.4 percent, from $202 million to $326 million in the same period. In the quarter ending April-August 2022, the country's toy export registered a 636 percent growth, over the same period in 2013!

India's push for toy industry protection may have occurred at a time when the nation was embroiled in bitter disputes with China, but given the size of India's domestic market (more than 300 million children) and the potential for employment in the toy industry, the 'aatmanirbhar' is a welcome development.