Dhyaan Mehra is looking forward to his Diwali gift. He's been promised a Rs 30,000 worth gaming gadget, in addition to the over Rs 25,000 worth of games he was already gifted on his tenth birthday last month.
"We don't see it as a liability. We buy the games to help him to learn while he gets entertained," says Shilpa Mehra, 38, Dhyaan's mother. Like the Mehras, there are an increasing number of parents who are looking at games as enablers of learning and development for their children.
One of the main reasons for this, says Kapil Kejriwal, executive director, Parksons Cartamundi, an Indian toy company that manufactures card games and has units in Gujarat and Daman, is the growing awareness about newer, savvier games -digital and conventional - that provide edutainment.
The growing interest of parents in ensuring that their children get the games or toys they want, irrespective of price - given higher disposable incomes today - has led to a phenomenal growth in the games business in India, Kejriwal said. "Business is booming. We have had a year-on-year growth of 20%." His company is developing a huge Angry Birds trading cards project on the digital platform. "Technology will add to and boost the physical product," he said.
Ben Nabert, CEO, Simba Toys in India, Middle East and North Africa, is very positive about the Indian consumer. Simba opened its first store in Mumbai last week. "India, for the last two decades, has been an emerging economy, with a clear nuclear family trend. Most young families are double-income and this has increased the average spend on kids and toys in the last couple of years. Moreover, Indian parents value education for their kids from an early age and toys that provide this added value are in demand. We expect to grow by 25-30% annually in India."
Added Amit Chaudhary, founder, Exelixi Management Company, Simba's Indian retail business associate: "Our research showed that the toys and games sector has intrinsic demand that is growing every year, but supply remains a problem. Parents are spending ever-increasing amounts on toys, but do not have ready access to products that are safe and reliable."
Since the demand for toys is higher than what is being supplied in the market, Indian toy companies do not see the entry of international brands as well as Chinese toys as a threat. They feel that the presence of international players, including the West and China, only complements the Indian toy manufacturing industry.
"Consumers get world class products and variety at a good price. It creates competitiveness and capacity-building in Indian manufacturers; the retail demand is met, which otherwise cannot be handled by Indian manufacturers alone; and an awareness of newer varieties of toys and games is created," said Sunil Nanda, president, Toys Association of India (TAI).
Kamal Jain, proprietor, Ajanta Games, an Indian manufacturer which also exports toys to Dubai, Africa and the Middle East, concurred: "Imported goods offer more choice and it hasn't been a threat to our business at all. We have Rs 2-3 crore growth year-on-year. Chinese toys, given their reputation for being of very low quality whereas we offer guarantees on all our products, gives us an upper hand. Our products are in greater demand abroad, albeit being more expensive. We are also ready to export smaller quantities - for instance, one container - whereas the Chinese companies need bigger orders."
Looking at the sheer opportunity in the toys market and the fact that most of it is unorganised, the government is also working to bring in a new regulation to check product safety in children's products. With the implementation of new regulations, it hopes to bring structure to the industry to make it vibrant and export-capable.
Nabert summed it all up, saying that the market is more than big enough and still hungry for additional local and international quality products. "Parents now are more aware of international brands. Access to the internet is a big eye-opener," he said.