Building India’s own toys: Drawing inspiration from culture and heritage

A note on the Ahmedabad Design Week 2021 event, themed Toy’ing With Design:

 Pushing forward the call of making India a global toy manufacturing hub, the second edition of Ahmedabad Design Week (ADW) 2021, themed ‘Toy’ing With Design’ was virtually inaugurated on February 3. Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, former DG, CSIR and president, Indian National Science Academy (INSA), was the chief guest of the inaugural ceremony. Anju Sharma (IAS), principal secretary, higher and technical education, government of Gujarat in along with Dr Himanshu Pandya, vice chancellor, Gujarat University and Shri Pradyumna Vyas, former director, National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad were present at the inaugural session, held virtually. ADW is an annual design confluence organised by Ahmedabad-based Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID), which is affiliated with Karnavati University and i-Hub- a Government of Gujarat initiative.

Emphasizing on going vocal about increasing number of toys made in India, Dr Raghunath said in his keynote address, “Toys can bring about a social transformation of the mind, of the society and of the country. India has barely 0.5% global market share in the toy manufacturing sector whereas China has 80%. We must introspect why can’t we be at that level.”

To encourage toy manufacturing in the country, Dr Raghunath said that ‘Design in India’ and ‘Innovate in India’ is of utmost importance. “The global scene is changing now, and people are moving away from China. We must leverage this opportunity with a combination of national initiative (from the industry) and through a sound policy,” he said.

Dr Raghunath emphasised on the five key aspects of toy making in India: Affordable, Scalable, Sustainable, User-friendly, Rapidity, Excellence, Distinctive. He also mentioned how India can draw inspiration from its culture, heritage, its national icons and civilisations to bring in novelty in toys.

“The country which has given the world ancient texts, icons like Buddha, Rama, Krishna and legendary people like Gandhi and Sardar, may also have toys that replicate these idols,” said Smt Anju Sharma.

Echoing a similar view, Dr Himanshu Pandya, also said, “We must value our worth. We’re the biggest market in the world but we must be the biggest producers of the world by indigenisation of our world. Why can’t we propagate Eklavya and Bheem through toys instead of Hulk? Our own understanding of being Indian is very important.”

Experts present at the inaugural ceremony also highlighted that toys and games being utilized to improve cognitive skills in children. “With increasing screen time, focus should be on toys and game design not on digital platform. Instead, designers must look at the cognitive, creative and linguistic aspect of toys. When we’re putting up tinkering labs, toy making labs must also be encouraged,” Mr Pradyumna Vyas opined.

Mr Vyas also spoke of giving a boost to crafts clusters of India where traditional toys are manufactured. The five-day design confluence continued up to February 7. It saw toy and game designers, manufacturers and experts at the speaker sessions in addition to workshops and a virtual exhibition.

One of the speaker sessions that took place on the first day of ADW, was on ‘Capacity Building in Toy Manufacturing’ conducted by Mr Manish Kukreja, president, The All India Toy Manufacturers’ Association (TAITMA). Underlining the importance of innovations in toy design, Mr Kukreja mentioned that design institutes across India have a key role to play in helping toy and game designers get a patent for their innovations.

Indian toy manufacturing has a market size of roughly Rs 7,000 crore per annum, and Indian players have barely 10-15% market share in the total consumption here, according to the TAITMA president.

“Apart from less innovations, one of the key reasons why the manufacturing of toys in India hasn’t picked up pace is the lack of ecosystem around it. In India, we hardly have any manufacturers for toy components and therefore, there is an urgent need to scale up the auxiliary industry in the toy manufacturing set up. The government has done enough by announcing toy manufacturing parks, rationalising GST rates on toys and even enabling start-ups to foray into the toy design and manufacturing sector. The onus now lies upon the industry to leverage the opportunity and effectively utilize the ecosystem and platform to help turn India into a global toy manufacturing centre,” Mr Kukreja said.

***

With a potpourri of ideas, fascinating insights on design thinking and current trends in the world of design and toys, manufacturing and packaging world over, a bunch of power-packed sessions of the second edition of the annual design confluence called Ahmedabad Design Week (ADW) came to a fruitful conclusion on February 7. The five-day design confluence with the theme on ‘Toy’ing With Design’ was organised by UnitedWorld Institute of Design (UID) – affiliated with Karnavati University and iHub – a Government of Gujarat initiative.

On the last day, the session ‘Toys that grow with a child’ was conducted by eminent toy designer and TEDx speaker, Ms Suhasini Paul. An NID alumnus, Suhasini, who is a recipient of Designpreneur Award and has designed toys for brands of repute such as Kinder Joy, Disney, Ape and Chota Bheem, spoke about educating children about environment and sustainability through toys.

Citing example of a wide variety of toys that designers can create to help young children learn about sustainability, Suhasini said, “While designing toys the focus is on designing for users, the toys that grow with children, toys that are sustainable. However, it is crucial to gauge the environmental impact of the toy. The toy should last long not only because many resources have gone into it but also their value and utility must remain over the years.”

“The role of toy designers should involve designing toys that growth with children, whose value and utility remain. Design a toy in a way that the kids can play for longer periods,” she further went on to say.

Suhasini also said that while innovating and coming up with better designs in toys that last, one must also try and focus on the many toy clusters in India and try and bring in innovation there.

The final day of ADW 2.0 also saw research paper and poster presentations on the theme of ‘Toying with Design’ by students and professionals from various academic institution around the country.  Online presentations were made on highly innovative and socially relevant research and development projects ranging from designing toys for children with disabilities, to designing games for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to educational toys for teaching Alphabets to pre-school children to name a few.

The final day also witnessed a panel discussion by the Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID) on ‘Nurturing Space for Children’ and another one by industry experts on ‘To design toys for an educational and emotional frame’.

All in all, ADW 2.0 saw participation of some 50,000 students and at least 80,000 professionals. Representatives from some 18 educational institutes of repute such as NID – Ahmedabad, CEPT University and MS University in Vadodara, among others participated.

Some 100+ speakers from across the globe including countries like India, Canada, US, UK, Latvia, Italy, Germany, Austria, Finland, South Africa, Austria, Hungary and Belgium, addressed ADW 2.0 participants through 28 speaker sessions on design, manufacturing and ecosystem of toys and toy making. The design confluence also included a virtual exhibition of traditional toys in addition to 12 panel discussions and eight workshops.

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