Karthik Vaidyananthan started off making music before taking a detour at Channapatna

Karthik Vaidyanathan reminds one of Santa Claus. He makes toys — small, bright and colourful ones. It was not toys, but music that kick-started his career. “I was a music producer working with Radio City,” says Karthik. “I also helped set up some music channels for World Space. I feel music, art, culture and crafts all go hand-in-hand. So it was easy for me to make that connection with toys.”

Karthik had his close encounters with toys when he worked with NGOs in the city and says: “I realised the potential for crafts. I chose Channapatna toys as they floored me with their bright colours.”

Karthik, however, was not happy just “re-selling” Channapatna toys. He wanted to create toys with “a twist. I started doing home decor using this craft.” And out came a range of designer table and floor lamps, salt and pepper shakers, coasters etc. with Channapatna craft. “The idea was to tell people that crafts can also be functional and not just decorative items. When that happens people are willing to buy.”

He started selling his products under the name, Varnam, which means colours. A few months later he came out with a jewellery range in Channapatna. “I dabbled in jewellery because it’s a more impulsive purchase. That was also one way of re-inventing myself.”

Finally it was toys that he created. “Toys always appeal to everyone,” observes Karthik. He started making toys that doubled as creative games and puzzles. “Every toy will have a note about the animal used in its designs. That way there is also some learning that will happen.” The toys start at Rs. 500. Karthik insists on training women in this craft and also employing them. “This is because I grew up with strong women, my mother and sister, who always insisted on women empowerment and equality.”

When he started with Tipu’s Toys range, he had 10 women artisans. Today there are over 25 women who work for him. “Even the craft world is male-dominated. But I find women better workers. They are more dedicated, open to suggestions, connect better to change and feedback and are willing to experiment when it comes to new designs.” This toy maker has also won the CII Excellence Award (Confederation of Indian Industry)for his Oinkston table ware range and the Kyoorius Award for some of his other creations. The Oinkston range features the piggy bank motif for coasters, salt and pepper shakers and tooth pick holders. This is also my way of telling parents to buy toys that they probably grew up with. My toys are safe for a child and are made from eco-friendly materials. So why can’t parents invest in this rather than Barbie dolls?”

As of now Karthik sells online.

The idea was to tell people that crafts can also be functional and not just decorative items

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