Gween represents growth, the growth found in children and nature. Gween Toys brings both of them together. Having won the CII Industrial Design award for one of their toys - Gwomies, Bangalore based Gween Toys have already catered to almost 1000 American kids and plan to expand their venture further in the international as well as the domestic markets.In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, IIT Roorke graduate MP Hariharan tells us how he and his co-founders believe that the future of the planet is in the children's hands and that is why, it is important to catch them young!
Tell us about your venture - Gween Toys.
Gween Toys is an organic toys company that sells its toys in Western markets to cater to the burgeoning demand for organic, lead-free toys.
At Gween Toys, we create innovative toys that inspire children to have fun while learning. But we want children to learn more than just their ABCs and 123s. We want children to develop a love of their environment and learn how to preserve its natural resources at a young age. Therefore, each of our toys is created with three key components in mind: education, entertainment and eco-friendliness.
Can you briefly tell us about the founders’ background?Gween Toys is founded by MP Hariharan, Harish Abbott and Anindita Sengupta. Hariharan and Harish were batchmates at IIT-Roorkee, and Anindita did her Masters in Toy and Game Design from NID Ahmedabad. Hari also heads Rezonant Design, a design boutique based in Bangalore and Bushtail Advertising, while Harish is a serial entrepreneur, having founded companies like WeRead and SneakPeeq.
Why Toy Design, any personal experience that triggered this?
It started over a casual trip to Channapatna sometime in 2008 and we were touched by the love each artisan there put into his work, which has been a neglected sector for long. We sensed an opportunity in the demand for organic products worldwide. The artisans had the skill but the designs tend to be similar. We added design, some packaging and branding and then used our collective marketing skills to sell to Western audiences and sensibilities.
Rezonant has been into design and packaging for quite some time, so we had an advantage in making a high-quality packaged product.
Can you briefly tell us the thought process behind making these organic toys?Our products are guided by three operational philosophies.
They have to be educational: Learning is an extremely important component of every child’s day - from early skills such as hand-eye coordination and matching skills to later introductions of reading and math. We have created all of our toys with an educational component that not only develops confidence in these areas but shows that learning can be fun.
Secondly, they have to be entertaining: Though each of our toys is created to reinforce a developmental skill, learning should be fun and imaginative. With a little creative thinking, a stacking set can turn into a fairytale forest of trees where tigers and zebras roam free and become fast friends or giraffes use their long necks to scout the ideal place to build a windmill.
Finally, they have to be eco-friendly and/or convey an eco-message. All of our toys are created by hand using wood from sustainable trees and natural colourings from the roots, bark and leaves of native plants. No glues, paints, metals, plastics or other synthetic materials are used in the making of the toys. And all of our packaging is made from recycled materials.
We will have digital products besides physical organic products. Things like eco-apps which could help children have fun and learn something about the environment at the same time.
Who are your primary customers? What’s your market size like?Our clients are American mothers mostly. We plan to launch in UK, UAE and Singapore soon. An India launch is also planned in another 6 months time. The global toy industry today is $78 Billion and the apps industry is slated to reach $15 Billion by 2013. Our reckoning is that the market for eco-friendly toys and apps is only going to grow.
Why didn’t you look at the domestic market first?
Well, we do look at India as a strong market. Dynamics here are different. We are keen to enter the market here on a larger scale, with standalone stores called “Planet Gween” that will sell a range of toys and goodies for kids. Why not India first? We wanted to try our toys with a global audience first and see the reactions. So far we have had great sales and reactions. Over 1000 American kids now have our toys.
Any expansion plans?
We are now increasing our inventory in the US. We plan to go about it slowly for some time and begin fast-paced expansion from June 2012.
How does the revenue model work?
We are like any manufacturing entity that sells a branded product. Similar revenue models. The app business will be a Freemium App model for some time.
Where are you based? And where are your manufacturers based?
We are in San Francisco and Bangalore. Our manufacturers are in Channapatna.
Since when are you operational? How big is your team? Are you looking at hiring?
Operational since August 2010, we are a team of three. We will begin hiring product managers, merchandising managers, marketing professionals and specialised toy and product designers from June 2012.
Are you looking at raising funds?We will be initiating the process of raising funds after June 2012. Till then we wish to establish the business model firmly.
What are the three tips that you would like to give to budding design entrepreneurs in India?
Identify a high margin business
Persist over the initial days
Quality is paramount (Quality of product, service delivery etc. )
Overall design entrepreneurs must feel exalted that they are in the right place at the right time.
How do you see the design ecosystem evolve in India?
It is a fantastic place for design, especially the next 10 years. India is seriously under-leveraged in design. Not only toy design, but we are bullish about our design and advertising businesses as well.
How was your experience at YCE?
It was quite an amazing experience. The eco-system of energetic entrepreneurs is exciting and the candid feedback from jury members who are mostly entrepreneurs in their own right is always good to have.
For further information do check our Gween Toys and do share your thoughts by dropping a comment here!
This article is a part of the British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneurs Series. To know more about the Young Design Entrepreneur Awards, click here. Follow the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards (YCE) on Facebook.
- Abhilasha Dafria