Toys And Games For Indian Children: A Missed Childhood

Have you ever tried buying toys or games? I tried in a shop claiming a decent assortment of toys and games. I found a Scrabble, a Pictionary, a Monopoly, a Battleship, 5-6 more games and that’s about it. For lack of options, I tried out online portals. It had a plethora of games claiming to be fun with learning, but for an exclusive game or a toy option, it was nothing more than what I saw in the store.

I walked all the aisles of the toys and games section in the store. An entire section was devoted to the assortment of Barbie dolls. One section had only the guns. One section was for blocks and one was for battery-operated toys. The last section dealt with the games mentioned above. I could not understand what were the options for children to just play?

I did a Google search on the Indian toys industry, found an article from The Hindu. It was a shocker.

3 facts about Indian toys industry

“The Indian toy market is about 0.5% of the world’s toy market,” says R Jeswant, VP Sales & Marketing, Funskool India Ltd (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

This is outrightly crazy. India has 17.7% of the world’s population (Source: Worldometers). If we talk only about children, India’s share in the world would anytime be more than 17.7%. Meaning, we have more than 18% of the world’s children in this country and they have only about 0.5% of the world’s toys to play with.

“85% of what’s sold in Indian toys market is imported. Again, 85% of the toys India imports is from China”, (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

This is another bummer. We have a pitiable share of the world market and whatever we do have comes from outside the country. China supplies 72.25% of Indian toys. If we ban China, and that we should, our children, for the time Make In India ramps up production, will have nothing to play with. A real nothing.

“India has $1.5 billion toy industry”, (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

$1.5 billion comes to 11238 Cr.  In 2019, about 26.62 % of the Indian population was in the 0-14 year category (Source: statista.com). This will come to 36.75 Cr below 14 years, though this is necessarily not the cut-off for toys and games. Combining the above 2 numbers will give us a budget of Rs. 305/- per child in India for buying toys and games for an entire year. A princely sum.

Unanswered Questions

  1. What would the children of the rest of the world be playing that Indian children are missing out on? Would the difference be limited to quantity or variety and quality of toys and games?
  2. How would this differential availability of toys and games manifest in Indian adults and adults in other parts of the world, who had access to them in their childhood?
  3. Is the limited access to toys and games for Indian children a recent phenomenon? Or has it been like this, historically?
  4. The Indian toy market is very small. What could be the reason? There is no demand because there is no supply. Or, there is no supply because there is no demand.
  5. Pictionary, Scrabble, Monopoly etc are games with a Western origin. Why aren’t these or for that matter any of the games not available in the vernacular avatar? Not even Pictionary cards?
  6. What about the Indian traditional toys and games? What are they? Where are they? Why there has never been scaling up for those 40-50 families in Channapatna, Chitrakoot, Kondapalli etc?
  7. China manufactures 72.25% of toys and games in the Indian market. How did this happen? How did we let it happen? What was the scenario earlier?
  8. India has hardly any outdoor spaces left in the urban areas for children to come out. If the toys and games are minuscule, what are the avenues for Indian children to play? Do they play at all?
  9. India has a plethora of institutional set-ups for children. If their buying of toys and games is taken out of the Indian numbers, what exactly would be left for the children at home?
  10. Lastly, what would be the thoughts of Indian parents about toys and games that it leads to such abysmal numbers?

My views

  1. Weight of school bags gets heavier by the day in India.
  2. Weight of parental expectations gets heavier by the day in India. (Why bother for anything that does not count towards JEE/NEET?)
  3. Parents who have not lived their childhood perpetuates the same with their children.
  4. As on date in India, malls are open, restaurants are open, religious places are open. But, the children parks are shut. Why? We don’t expect the children to play, only study online education. Hence, the continued lockdown for children below 10 years, 4 months over and counting.
  5. Letting children be themselves and have fun is a losing proposition in today’s world.

Above mentioned points are my guesses. Maybe, all wrong. After all, no children have ever complained; not even after becoming adults.

What would be your views about toys and games for Indian children?

PS: I consider Barbie a stereotype, not a toy. Similarly, the guns are meant for Army and Police, not for children. With all these STEM fun & learning combinations, why can’t we let children have just unbridled fun without the prerequisite of learning?