The Indian Toy Scene & Kids India – A Growing Force

India is a growing force in the global toy industry. As one of the fastest growing economies in the world with more than 1.3 billion people, India has been on the radar for some time. However, economic development has not always permeated to all in Indian society & moreover, toy companies have sometimes struggled to build critical mass in what is admittedly one of the most fragmented toy markets in the world.

In the last two to three years, aside from the distribution opportunity on offer, India has also risen as a worthy up and comer to China’s global dominance of toy manufacturing. Major global toy companies have either already embraced or are beginning to embrace India as the next global hub for toy manufacturing.

This then is a very good time for Kids India – the leading international toy trade show for India, held in Mumbai each September. This year, the 5th Kids India event will be held at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre between 20-22 September. The show features more than 150 exhibitors and over 5,000 visitors. For those with an interest in either growing distribution in India or exploring manufacturing opportunities on the sub-continent, Kids India is clearly the place to be.

Visitors to Kids India may find the following market insights useful:

Distribution

In terms of market size, the Indian toy market is estimated to be worth around $450m USD, although it’s quite difficult to accurately quantify this for sure. The reason for that is that retail is not dominated by major national chains in India unlike the USA, UK or France for instance.

The classic ‘mom & pop’ store is still where it’s at in India. There are numerous reasons for this:

Firstly, India was not a single unified state until independence from the British arrived in 1947. Therefore, India historically was never one single homogenous entity in practical terms. Even today, India is one of the most diverse nations on earth, with at least 11 languages spoken.

Secondly, while India’s economy is fast developing, it has lacked the infrastructure and centralised disciplined planning/delivery of planning as we have seen in China for instance.

Thirdly, logistically, it would be hard for one single retail chain to manage logistics/warehousing across a vast country with varying transportation/accessibility. So, you can’t expect to access India’s toy market with just a few retail accounts. Recently some international franchises such as Hamleys have established a growing presence in India, but they are yet to hit real critical mass. There is also a Toys R Us franchisee with plans for over 60 TRU stores to be built over 10 years, but again this is yet to reach any real critical mass.

In terms of product categories, Preschool is by far the biggest category in India. Electronic & Construction toys represent a significantly smaller part of the market opportunity in India versus most other established markets.

Overall, the statistics quoted may not appear to be that exciting, however, the key appeal for India is the potential for growth! The middle class in India is growing quickly, as is the appreciation of western brands. For those companies capable of looking beyond the next quarter, India currently offers that rare mix of huge potential growth with the chance to embed classic brands for the first time. Furthermore, the place to explore this opportunity & to meet the key players is Kids India – if you want to see where the international toy industry meets the Indian industry, this is clearly an unavoidable trade show.

Manufacturing

On the manufacturing front, India hasn’t always been seen as the place to go for toy manufacturing. However, as the toy industry is slowly coming to terms with the fact that China’s days of being a low-cost producer of toys may be fading somewhat, the reality is that only India can truly offer hopes of alternative capacity. While Thailand, Vietnam & Indonesia will inevitably see continued growth in toy manufacturing, there is nowhere with the potential to grow exponentially to cover a significant proportion of the world’s toy production like India can. China has roughly 4,000-5,000 toy factories, manufacturing in the region of $30-40bn of toys each year. The only other country with the scale of industry & potential workforce to rival China is India. The two countries have a similar population, with India set to overtake China as the world’s most populous country in the next few years.

An additional, and perhaps more valuable advantage India has is the established high volume moulded plastic supply chain. India is the world’s number 5 car exporter, and nearly every major car brand has significant production in India, from Mercedes Benz to JCB, from BMW to Honda or Hyundai, you will find massive car plants in several regions of India, along with $billion supply chain companies. India has vast moulded plastic expertise, as so much of the interior of cars is moulded plastic these days. Somewhere in the region of 25 million people work in India’s automotive industry. Therefore, toy production facilities have sprung up around the automotive hubs, especially near Mumbai & Chennai.

India has two further significant advantages for toy manufacturing – due to much lower labour costs and advanced automotive lean manufacturing/engineering disciplines, typical ex-factory costs in India are around 10% cheaper vs China (on average & in my experience of quoting manufacturing).

The other major advantage is India’s labour law & local regulations are much more protective of the worker versus China for instance. Therefore, Indian factories tend to breeze through critical toy industry audits including ICRI, Walmart FCCA & licensor audits such as Disney.

Finally, as nearly all Indian business people speak English (albeit with a bit of an accent), communication can be easier versus some other toy producing countries.

The challenge for those looking to harness Indian toy manufacturing is that there is no one place to go, nor is there really the same established industry ‘scene’ as Hong Kong offers for China. Therefore, Kids India is likely to be the best place to meet potential new suppliers and to investigate the market in general!

About the author – Steve Reece is a leading Toy industry consultant. He runs Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com a company which advises toy companies around the world and also Toy Team India www.ToyTeamIndia.com, a consultancy business which helps toy companies find Indian toy manufacturing and helps Indian vendors enter the toy market & recruit new customers.

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