IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Far from a happy toy story: Traditional toy makers face Chinese goods, high GST and lack of funds

17th October, 2020 Editorial

Context: India has the potential to become a hub for the global toy industry, artisans face a range of problems.

  • Influx of cheaper Chinese toys, high GST, lack of innovation and funds, and inadequate training plague the traditional industry.
  • Business is yet to pick up for the famed Channapatna toys after a lockdown imposed across the country to contain the spread of COVID-19.
  • Demonetisation in 2016 and imposition of a 12% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on their products dealt additional blows to their business.
  • There is no demand for these products from local retailers.

Channapatna toys

  • It is a hand-crafted wooden products, which wear coats of vegetable paint and lacquer, enjoyed a good market locally and abroad.
  • Channapatna toys are more durable and safer for children (as they are coloured with vegetable dyes)
  • Variety of necklaces, bangles, beads and napkin rings are carved out from the logs of ivory wood.
  • Channapatna toys date back to the reign of the 18th century ruler of Mysore kingdom, Tipu Sultan, who invited Persian artisans to train local artisans in making wooden toys.
  • As ivory wood trees, easily distinguishable with their blooms of white, star-shaped flowers, were available aplenty in and around Ramanagara district, the craft flourished in Channapatna.
  • Ivory wood trees help make lightweight toys.
  • The uniqueness of the craft also helped the toys earn the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
    • The GI tag is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.


The China crisis in Channapatna

  • The arrival of Chinese toys in the market at almost half the price of the Channapatna toys severely impacted the industry.
  • The assembly line production of Chinese toys makes them far less expensive than the Channapatna toys, which are hand-crafted and hand-painted.


  • The number of artisans engaged in the toy-making industry is dwindling as their earnings fall well below the wages offered in other industries.
  • Absence of innovation in the design of toys

Government efforts

  • Two common facility centres set up in Channapatna by the government authorities offer work spaces and lathes at a concessional rate to a few artisans, but a majority of artisans work on their own lathes set up in their homes.
  • Special attention is also paid to the export-oriented toys at one of the two common facility centres.
  • Central government’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ policy expected to discourage or even impose a ban on the import of Chinese toys.
  • Government plans to create an online market for the artisans by facilitating their registration on the Government e-Marketplace portal.

An industry with great potential

  • The toy makers of Etikoppaka and Kondapalli in Andhra Pradesh, and Nirmal in Telangana, see a ray of hope and keeping a tradition alive despite meagre returns.
  • This industry has tremendous potential and can provide employment to lakhs of people, according to market estimates.

Etikoppaka toys

  • Etikoppaka is a village on the banks of the Varaha river.
  • Over 200 traditional artisan families are part of the Etikoppaka toy-making industry in the village.
  • The Etikoppaka signature toys include a standing couple, a wedding scene, automobiles, birds, and shehnai troupes.
  • They are made with the soft variety of wood from the Ankudu tree. Artisans use only vegetable colours.
  • “The soft-edged toys are useful for children. They help their eye-hand coordination, they help them recognise colours and enhance their motor skills.
  • Etikoppaka handicrafts have a GI tag.

Way to revive and survive tradition

  • The industry can also makes utility, decorative, ornamental and measurement utensils besides toys,”.
  • An organised approach towards enhancing the skills of artisans along with subsidies, interest-free loans, scientific development of the industry, market interventions, and official supply of wood and lacquer would ensure the industry’s growth and competitiveness is required.
  • Appealing to start-ups: There is need to develop start-ups with the artisans to explore multiple business opportunities for growth.

Illegal wood in Kondapalli

  • The elegant toys of Kondapalli include wooden-painted bullock carts, a Dasavataram set, a palanquin, wedding sets, farmers in the field, and Sita, Rama and Lakshmana in a boat.
  • The primary issue with the industry is its basic ingredient, the Tella Poniki wood, which is illegal to fell.
  • Artisans complain about GST.
  • Artisans were given short-term training by the skill development corporation which was not sufficient.

Demand for eco-friendly toys

  • To encourage the next generation to take the legacy of toy-making forward, the government should provide funds and old-age pensions.
  • Apart from providing loans and longer training periods, the government should provide ways to restart exports. There were no revival efforts after these handicrafts were banned by some countries few years ago
  • Market research reports suggest that there is greater demand for eco-friendly wooden toys across the world.
  • Toys made of plastic and other hazardous material are being replaced by wooden toys and toys made of other non-hazardous material.
  • This provides wooden toy-makers a great opportunity to innovate and meet the surging demand.