Far from a happy toy story: Traditional toy makers face Chinese goods, high GST and lack of funds

While the Prime Minister says India has the potential to turn out to be a hub for the worldwide toy trade, artisans face a vary of issues. Appaji Reddem and Laiqh Ahmed Khan report on how an inflow of cheaper Chinese toys, high GST, lack of innovation and funds, and insufficient coaching plague the normal trade.

Bent over his lathe in a single of the by-lanes of Kalanagar in Channapatna, about 60 km from Bengaluru, Meer Kaleem stares at his handiwork, a piece of wooden that’s taking the form of a toy’s half, with deep focus. While his nimble fingers proceed their work, his face falls when he begins speaking in regards to the seemingly bleak future of the craft that has been the supply of livelihood for 3 generations.

Business is yet to pick up for the famed Channapatna toys after a lockdown imposed throughout the nation to include the unfold of COVID-19 stretched from three weeks to months. Only a few lathes are buzzing within the city. The lockdown worsened the woes of the craftsmen which started with the inflow of low cost Chinese toys into the market. Demonetisation in 2016 and imposition of a 12% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on their merchandise dealt extra blows to their enterprise. “And now there is no demand for our products from local retailers. Merchants who used to come from different parts of the country are not showing up. Even exhibitions and fairs across the country, where many of our products are sold, remain closed,” says a frightened Kaleem.

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Notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mention of the brightly coloured Channapatna toys in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme in August and emphasis on the promotion of domestically manufactured toys, Kaleem isn’t positive if the trade can return to its heyday anytime quickly. The hand-crafted wooden products, which put on coats of vegetable paint and lacquer, loved a good market domestically and overseas. He reminisces in regards to the selection of necklaces, bangles, beads and serviette rings he used to carve out from the logs of ivory wooden in his lathe, to fulfill export orders, about 15-20 years in the past. “Our products were in great demand in foreign countries even till the late 1990s. But not anymore,” he rues.

The China disaster in Channapatna

The arrival of Chinese toys out there at nearly half the worth of the Channapatna toys severely impacted the trade. The meeting line manufacturing of Chinese toys makes them far inexpensive than the Channapatna toys, that are hand-crafted and hand-painted. Even although Channapatna toys are stated to be extra sturdy and safer for kids (as they’re colored with vegetable dyes), the Chinese varieties rule the market, artisans say.

Channapatna toys date again to the reign of the 18th century ruler of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom, Tipu Sultan, who invited Persian artisans to train local artisans in making wooden toys. As ivory wooden bushes, simply distinguishable with their blooms of white, star-shaped flowers, have been accessible aplenty in and round Ramanagara district, the craft flourished in Channapatna. Ivory wooden bushes assist make light-weight toys. The uniqueness of the craft additionally helped the toys earn the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. The GI tag is a signal used on merchandise which have a particular geographical origin and possess qualities or a status which might be resulting from that origin.

After greater than 30 years within the toy-making trade, Kaleem, in his early 50s, doesn’t see his sons taking ahead the household legacy. All three of them have taken up different vocations. The quantity of artisans engaged within the toy-making trade is dwindling as their earnings fall nicely under the wages supplied in different industries, he says.

However, Sunil Kumar, Assistant Director within the Office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Mysuru, claims that the quantity of Channapatna toy artisans has remained kind of unchanged for a few years now, even when it hasn’t elevated in proportion to the rising inhabitants. About 1,500 of the two,500 registered Channapatna toy artisans are energetic now, he says. Of them, about 1,000 are registered with the Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation, which purchases completed merchandise price a most of ₹3,000 from every of the artisans in a month. Two widespread facility centres arrange in Channapatna by the federal government authorities provide work areas and lathes at a concessional fee to a few artisans, however a majority of artisans work on their very own lathes arrange of their houses. Special consideration can be paid to the export-oriented toys at one of the 2 widespread facility centres, Kumar says.

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With the Central authorities’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ coverage anticipated to discourage and even impose a ban on the import of Chinese toys, the officers are hopeful that the fortunes of the Channapatna toy artisans might change. But self-reliance alone isn’t adequate; the absence of innovation within the design of toys is an space of concern, officers say. Artisans, they are saying, habitually produce the identical set of toys with none innovation. In distinction, the brand new and enticing designs and colors of the Chinese merchandise rating over the Channapatna toys.

Far from a happy toy story: Traditional toy makers face Chinese goods, high GST and lack of funds


Artisans like Krishna, who runs the Manjunatha Toys Store in Channapatna, counter this argument. Krishna shows a numerous set of merchandise in his retailer, together with utility gadgets like automotive seats made of wood beads, pencil sharpeners, tissue paper holders, and a selection of tops. Artisans are at all times keen to innovate so long as there may be a marketplace for the merchandise, he argues. Workshops on design innovation, organised by the authorities, are few and far between, whereas designs launched by the handicrafts division authorities and the prototypes accredited by them hardly ever translate into a marketplace for the artisans, he says.

Kumar says the federal government plans to create a web-based marketplace for the artisans by facilitating their registration on the Government e-Marketplace portal.

Apart from the risk posed by Chinese toys and lack of innovation, there are different ills plaguing the Channapatna toy-making trade. As enterprise is sluggish, some craftspersons are likely to yield to the temptation of making fast cash. “The ivory wood needs to be seasoned for at least three to four months before an artisan can start working on it. But a few artisans began making the toys without waiting for the seasoning period to end. The compromise shows in the quality of the product,” says artisan Syed Ameeruddin. A number of artisans additionally use chemical dyes, that are thought-about dangerous for kids, as a substitute of vegetable colors, he says. Many nations have strict guidelines in opposition to the import of toys with chemical dyes. As a consequence, some consignments fail to make the export high quality grade.

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Modi’s point out of the Channapatna toy trade comes as small comfort to the artisans who’ve been campaigning for withdrawal of 12% GST on their merchandise in addition to for intervention in opposition to the alleged hurdles posed by the Forest Department within the transport of ivory wooden.

An trade with nice potential

More than 700 km away, the toy makers of Etikoppaka and Kondapalli in Andhra Pradesh, and Nirmal in Telangana, see a ray of hope in Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ speech wherein he had praised their efforts in retaining a custom alive regardless of meagre returns. Lauding the revival efforts of the normal artisan C.V. Raju of Etikoppaka in Visakhapatnam district, Modi stated he wished start-ups to advertise the trade and safe the longer term of the artisans. He stated that whereas the worldwide toy trade is price over ₹7 lakh crore, India’s share in it’s minimal regardless of its wide selection of conventional and distinctive toys.

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A back-of-the-envelope calculation by market gamers on the whole annual enterprise of wood toy handicrafts in Etikoppaka, Kondapalli and Nirmal quantities to about ₹50 crore. This trade has super potential and can present employment to lakhs of folks, in keeping with market estimates.

Etikoppaka is a village on the banks of the Varaha river. Located about 65 km from the port metropolis of Visakhapatnam, the village homes about 10,000 folks. Over 200 conventional artisan households are half of the Etikoppaka toy-making trade within the village. The Etikoppaka signature toys embody a standing couple, a marriage ceremony scene, vehicles, birds, and shehnai troupes. They are made with the gentle selection of wooden from the Ankudu tree. Like in Channapatna, right here too artisans use solely vegetable colors. “The soft-edged toys are useful for children. They help their eye-hand coordination, they help them recognise colours and enhance their motor skills. The industry also makes utility, decorative, ornamental and measurement utensils besides toys,” says farmer and artisan Raju, 57.

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In Etikoppaka and Kondapalli, the wealthy custom of the handicraft wants a bigger push, says Raju. He says he wrote to the Department of Science and Technology and the National Innovation Foundation in 2019 in search of assist to make his initiative Hasthakala an experiment, interpretation and expertise centre of handicrafts. They stated they might get again on the proposal, he says.

Industry gamers and artisans level out that an organised method in direction of enhancing the abilities of artisans together with subsidies, interest-free loans, scientific growth of the trade, market interventions, and official provide of wooden and lacquer would make sure the trade’s progress and competitiveness.

Appealing to start-ups

Modi’s point out of Etikoppaka has generated a lot of curiosity amongst start-ups and different enterprise communities, says M.P. Dubey, joint director of Software Technology Parks of India (Visakhapatnam). “Etikoppaka handicrafts have a GI tag. That is a valuable resource for start-ups for mutually beneficial tie-ups. We did a lot of research on the sector and we are finding out ways of adding value to the craft so that it can become competitive in the global market. At the same time we have organised a meet to link interested start-ups with the artisans to explore multiple business opportunities for growth,” says Dubey.

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Back within the village, the optimistic vibes from the Prime Minister’s speak reverberate within the type of progressive initiatives by the native artisans to increase enterprise. A pair of teams have chalked out a plan to faucet into potential alternatives with IT and different company corporations. Adarsh, a pupil of IIM Bangalore, has organised a couple of artisan teams to faucet into the company social accountability funding of IT corporations for promotion of the crafts trade. “The IT firms, as part of CSR, give a lot of support to upcoming industries and handicrafts. We have made a plan to contact the top 10 IT firms to ask them if Etikoppaka toys can be made a part of their gifting plans. We are also approaching big-ticket wedding organisers asking them to opt for these toys as return gifts. We have positive signals from the market,” says Adarsh.

Far from a happy toy story: Traditional toy makers face Chinese goods, high GST and lack of funds


But funding poses a large drawback to bulk manufacturing, says Ramanababu, president of the Etikoppaka Mutually-Aided Cooperative Society. The society urgently wants a ₹5 crore corpus fund to purchase the toys in bulk from artisans and fulfil main orders, he says. “Most of the time we lose business not because of lack of expertise but the inability to fulfil expectations. Artisans are not in a position to make toys in bulk and store them with the society because of financial issues. A corpus fund can solve this problem. And there should also be a mechanism to arrest the volume of Chinese toys in our market. Chinese toys sell more than local toys even in places like Etikoppaka. The government should help us to be atma nirbhar this way. Many youngsters are ready to learn and pursue the handicraft,” he says.

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The society can be involved in regards to the sharp fluctuations in the fee of lacquer. Lacquer prices something between ₹300 and ₹1,100 per kg. The proposed fund can be anticipated for use for bulk buy of lacquer and provide it to artisans at a wholesale value.

On a median, an artisan will get ₹30,000 a month if he works 5 days a week. The earnings might be enhanced 4 instances if the trade is promoted in the correct manner, say artisan associations.

Illegal wooden in Kondapalli

The elegant toys of Kondapalli embody wooden-painted bullock carts, a Dasavataram set, a palanquin, marriage ceremony units, farmers within the subject, and Sita, Rama and Lakshmana in a boat. The 45-year-old third era artisan, Samala Satyanarayana, from Kondapalli village close to Vijayawada, says the first challenge with the trade is its primary ingredient, the Tella Poniki wooden, which is against the law to fell. “I’ve been making Kondapalli toys for 25 years. But I am forced to use illegal wood procured by woodcutters as respective governments have failed to regularise it despite our long-pending demand. The Forest Department can also get good revenue if the government agrees to our demand,” he says.

Here, too, artisans complain about GST. And now COVID-19 has led to a steep fall in enterprise. The orders from the government-owned Lepakshi have additionally come down, they are saying. Regular bulk orders come from personal purchasers in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

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Artisans say that they’re given short-term coaching by the ability growth company. Training for 15 days to a few months will not be adequate, they are saying. At least a yr of coaching is required for skilled experience within the craft. “We need authorised wood. It needs to be supplied by the government after treatment so that it is immune to pests. The treatment plant is too expensive for us to establish,” says one artisan.

The artisans, who’re utilizing their very own revolutionary strategies and superior instruments to make toys, say that the federal government may also help them create revolutionary instruments to allow sooner manufacturing. “It’s a long process but it will work if the government takes interest. Making toys faster is also important in the age of technology. Sometimes, we get bulk orders from corporates but usually they give very little time for manufacturing,” says Satyanarayana.

Online advertising and marketing avenues too should not working nicely for the artisans, he says. Higher costs on Amazon and Flipkart means fewer prospects. “We also need subsidised loans. Interest-free loans would work well for us. Right now we have a loan with a 9.5% interest rate. Now there is a huge dip in demand due to the pandamic. There are fewer orders, there is pressure from private lenders, maintenance costs, etc., and there is no support from any direction as usual,” laments one artisan.

Meanwhile, efforts by artisans and native leaders to construct a facility to advertise the trade have borne fruit. The work associated to a new artisan facility within the place of an previous one within the center of Kondapalli has superior. The proposed constructing for wooden processing is below manner, in keeping with Vijayawada MP Kesineni Srinivas (Nani). “We facilitated a ₹1.8 crore MSME fund, and a matching grant of ₹50 lakh was allocated from my MPLAD funds. The facility will be built soon,” Srinivas advised The Hindu.

Demand for eco-friendly toys

To encourage the subsequent era to take the legacy of toy-making ahead, the federal government ought to present funds and old-age pensions, says B.R. Shankar, supervisor of the Nirmal Toys and Arts Industrial Cooperative Society. The quantity of households who make the finely carved Nirmal toys within the cities of Nirmal in Adilabad district of Telangana has come all the way down to 50 from over 100 a few years in the past, says Shankar. “Apart from providing loans and longer training periods, the government should help us find ways to restart exports. There were no revival efforts after these handicrafts were banned by some countries few years ago,” Shankar says.

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Market analysis stories recommend that there’s larger demand for eco-friendly wood toys the world over. There is a seen change in the best way colleges and households are toys for kids, say artisans. Toys made of plastic and different hazardous materials are being changed by wood toys and toys made of different non-hazardous materials. This gives wood toy-makers a nice alternative to innovate and meet the surging demand. Artisans really feel inspired by Modi’s push, however the toy story can finish nicely provided that their many issues are addressed and the federal government manages to carry the trade out of the woods, they are saying.

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