The government and the Indian toy industry are seeing a major opportunity in the huge US market, but first want to set its house in order.
A committee has been set up comprising industry representatives, government officials and civil society members to frame safety standards compatible with the stringent Europe’s E N 71 norms for the domestic toy industry.
Government accredited safety standards are necessary to tap the lucrative US and European Union (EU) markets as suppliers are subjected to comprehensive safety audits before orders are finalised.
In 2007-08, India exported toys worth Rs 120 crore across the globe, which is negligible when compared to China’s $3 billion exports to the US alone.
A government official said based on the committee’s recommendations, the government might make it mandatory for toys to adhere to these safety standards.
"We expect to submit the recommendations in the next three months and it is absolutely essential for the domestic industry to adopt these standards," chairman of the committee and managing director of OK Play India Limited Rajan Handa said.
The value of the international organised toy industry is estimated at $50 billion, with the US toy market alone estimated at $22 billion and the EU market estimated at $12 billion.
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has published three standards for toys, but in absence of enforceability, not many toy manufacturers have adopted them. "It is in the industry’s own interest to adopt the safety standards as it will open up a major export market," Handa said.
Last year, Mattel recalled over 90,000 units of toys from the company’s Fisher-Price brand after reports said Chinese manufactured toys contained hazardous toxic and chemical elements.
In India, while the major organised players, including Lego, Mattel, OK Play, Funskool, MRF and Hasbro, had adopted safety standards, many small and medium enterprises and most of those belonging to the dominant unorganised sector were found lacking, a government official said.
A study by Toxics Link, a non-government organisation (NGO), found alarming levels of lead and cadmium in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) toys manufactured in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.