Pune: Indian toymakers have pledged to stand firm to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision for India to become a global hub for toy manufacturing. Under the All India Toys Federation (AITF), toy retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers nationwide hope to rise above the current economic difficulties to achieve this goal.
"We are happy and encouraged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking about the toy industry. PM Modi said India should become the global hub for toy manufacturing, but it would take some more time to achieve that", said Abdullah Sharif, Vice President of All India Toys Federation (AITF).
PM Modi had shared this vision in the latest edition of Mann Ki Baat, a monthly public monologue dedicated to the country. The episode, which aired on Sunday, August 30, saw him acknowledge the importance of the sector and its dedicated workforce.
"India is home to several toy clusters and thousands of artisans who produce indigenous toys. These toys don't only have cultural connect, but also help build psycho-motor and life-skills among children at an early age," said PM Modi.
The Indian toy industry is currently struggling with a large-scale slump in demand and issues stemming from economic uncertainties. The current COVID-19 pandemic caused a shortage in the supply of toys to the Indian market.
"We also hope that the government gives us some more time to gain a certification from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), a requirement from today, September 1. For this, we need an additional 18-24 months to ensure that all micro, small, and medium toy enterprises can rise to this challenge," Sharif added.
From September 1, all toy manufacturers and importers need a valid BIS licence to continue to manufacture and import new toys. The AITF is apprehensive that toy MSMEs, facing a financial crunch, would not be able to adhere to these standards right away.
"We fear that such measures can hinder PM Modi's vision, causing smaller units to shut down. We'd be left with only big MNCs, who will sell expensive branded toys in their store chains," Sharif said.
The federation has proposed a Scheme II for toys. "In such a scheme, we request BIS accredited labs to test our goods up to BIS standards rather than leaving us to set up such labs on our own. We also need an overhaul in terms of investments in tooling, moulds, and new talent in toy design and development."
"Very few domestic and nearly none of the foreign toy manufacturers have been able to apply for the required BIS certification, due to multiple clauses. The standards include quality requirements, the onus to set up testing labs, and the process's time-consuming length. Collaborating with existing labs will help them focus on building a toy arsenal for the depleted Indian market."
The current process to get a BIS certification is a time-consuming process, where manufacturers need to wait for 120 days. For foreign manufacturers, this time frame goes up to 180 days.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted India's manufacturing strength at all levels, including the toy industry. Local and international travel restrictions have put curbs on the movement of workers, resources, and finished products at all levels, especially for toymakers.
The new quality controls also hold against the infrastructure realities of this struggling sector. This could lead to a scarcity of toys and impact the livelihoods of everyone involved - traders, wholesalers, shopkeepers, whole-sellers, commission agents, distributors, and their employees.
All India Toys Federation (AITF) humbly requests and hopes that the government will defer the implementation of this policy by at least 18-24 months.