Business Standard

Toy majors India play: Focus shifts from China


What may be a loss for China in toy manufactur­ing is turning out to be a gain for India. India’s toy industry made rapid strides between FY15 and FY23 with exports increasing by a whopping 239 per cent and imports declining by 52 per cent, resulting in the country becoming a net exporter.

A mandatory requiremen­t of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) approval for the sale of toys in India, protection­ism, China-plus-one strategy and an increase in basic customs duty to 70 per cent have led to a boom in India's toy industry.

According to industry players, while global brands like Hasbro, Mattel, Spin Master, and Early Learning Centre depend more on the country for sourcing, major manufactur­ers like Italian major Dream Plast, Microplast, and Incas are gradually shifting focus to India from China.

Prior to the BIS regulation, India's dependence on China for toys was 80 per cent, which has now decreased.

"I don't think any Chinese capacity is approved by BIS. Imports have been replaced by domestic Indian products. Ten years ago, hardly any sourcing was happening from India. Now, many companies have set up a base in India," said R Jeswant, chief executive officer of Chennaibas­ed Funskool, owned by tyre maker MRF and associates. The company also supplies to internatio­nal toy majors such as Hasbro, Spin Master, Early Learning Centre, Flair and Drumond Park Games.

Around 60 per cent of the company's production is now catering to export markets, including 33 countries in the GCC, Europe and the US. This will soon be expanding to over 40 countries with government policy support like BIS, Jeswant said.

"The Indian production has gone up and many people have set up their base in India. Many of the buyers, who were sourcing from China, are trying to shift to other countries and India is one of them. There are many big companies like Microplast, Dream Plast and Incas in this list," said Pawan Gupta, owner of R P Associates, a distributo­r, importer and exporter based out of Delhi. "Companies like Hasbro and Mattel are also sourcing from India on a large scale," Gupta said.

On January 1, 2021, India banned the sale of toys not certified by BIS. To support the domestic industry, the government raised the basic customs duty on toys from 20 per cent to 60 per cent in February 2020. This was further increased to 70 per cent in March 2023.

The Toy Associatio­n of India (TAI), however, believes that the BIS rules need to be further relaxed to support micro, small, and medium enterprise­s. The associatio­n said that out of the 6,000-odd toy manufactur­ing units in the country, only 1,500 have obtained a BIS licence.

"In the MSME sector, the government has relaxed a lot in the last two years. Despite that, it is not manufactur­e-friendly. But it is a fact that a lot of startups are emerging, and Gujarat is fast becoming a toy manufactur­ing hub," said Ajay Aggarwal, president of TAI.

According to a report by market research firm IMARC, the toy industry in India was valued at $1.7 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $4.4 billion by 2032, exhibiting a growth rate of 10.6 per cent.

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