Does your toddler or little munchkin have any traditional Indian toy as part of his or her collection? Has she or he cheered on the whirling of a lattu (spinning top) or laughed at the head-bobbing Thanjavur doll? Does your child enjoy bringing down fruit from orchard trees like you did with the gulel (catapult)?
I think most of us can agree that the new generation rarely enjoys simple pleasures like we did in our childhood. Pallankuzhi, Natungram wooden dolls, Kondapalli toys, Channapatna toys, chaturanga, pachisi, bhatukali, bagh chal and kathputli are some of the traditional toys and games that are on the verge of extinction due to waning interest in them.
The Indian toy industry and its magnificent craftspeople face survival challenges in today’s market. This despite the Prime Minister urging everybody to go “vocal for local”.
The export of Indian toys is shrinking and cannot compete with the Chinese toy market. China’s share is estimated to be 75% of all the toys manufactured worldwide.
In fact, we are nowhere in generating revenue from the toy market, when compared with Germany, Hong Kong, Turkey, Denmark, Japan or the Czech Republic, etc.
Traditional Indian toys cannot compete with video games, flexi toys, moving and spinning toys, robotic and AI-enabled toys of China and other countries. Moreover, Chinese toys are available in all variants: electric, mechanical, plastic, wooden and soft cloth versions. The traditional toys have no such vast diversification to attract modern kids, and this could be a reason for India’s poor performance in the toy sector.
The traditional Indian toy industry is in dire need of revival. This not only calls for the participation of craftspersons and toy manufacturers but also the contribution of citizens. It is we who need to support and promote traditional toys. Our children will get to play with them only when we, as parents, invest in toys. The government also needs to set up a Toy Commission of India dedicated to the promotion of the toy industry through funding, training, exporting and promoting Indian toys. As parents, it is our responsibility to get our kids to play with toys of our heritage and Indian roots.