Mumbai-based startup Toiing brings toys with an Indian soulAthira Nair
Toiing’ range that spans craft kits, board games, party games and outdoor toys - are designed based on innovation, ‘Indian-ness’, and collaboration.
Less than two years ago, Simon Jacob, an IIM-K alumnus experienced in marketing, found himself struggling - to find newer ways to keep his three-year-old daughter meaningfully engaged. He realised that there were hardly any homegrown toys which were engaging and thoughtfully designed. Luckily, he had the perfect resources and creativity for solving the problem.
Simon, 37, had co-founded Camphire – a marketing agency – in 2011 with Kartik Talwar, 34, (another IIM-K MBA) which in 2015 was in the process of creating its own brands under a new name ‘The Bucketlist’. This team was well-poised to address the gap in children’s toys with its design and innovation capabilities.
Thus, Toiing was launched in 2016 with its 3D DIY Ganesha Craftoi. Within 15 days of launch, they sold 6000 units.
“Children are most impressionable and influenced by their parents between the ages of three and eight. So we wanted to bring families together by having some good old-fashioned fun through a range of creative toys and games with an Indian soul,” says Simon.
He claims that its products – which spans craft kits, board games, party games and outdoor toys - are designed based on innovation, ‘Indian-ness’, and collaboration. They have invested close to Rs 2 crore in the business till date.
Aid for parents
From research, Toiing has found, in the absence of reliable resources, parents struggle with their kids’ behavioural issues like low self-esteem, short attention span, stubbornness, and lack of empathy. Toiing’s range of toys and games will help develop social and emotional intelligence in children through play.
Targeting parents of three-eight year olds, Toiing aims to be an accessible brand with premium quality. The average price range is between Rs 300-400, and products straddle price points from Rs 20 to Rs 1499.
Toiing works with designers from NID and freelancers from different countries who add diversity to the product design and development process.
According to Simon, they are working towards creating a community of evangelists and co-creators which includes parents, teachers, and practitioners to add value to the process of innovation.
He claims that they have received great response from parents in Tier 1 and Tier 2 towns.
Toiing follows a general trade driven distribution model currently. Simon claims that hiring from market leaders in the toy industry has given them significant inroads in terms of distribution width in Western India.
Toiing works with around 15 distributors, servicing more than 500 stores, in addition to selling on e-commerce portals Amazon India and Firstcry to reach out to consumers in remote places like Kashmir and the North Eastern states. It has its own logistics team to manage sourcing, manufacturing, and dispatches.
While the Indian toys market is estimated to be worth around Rs 2750 crore, it is primarily dominated by Chinese imports. Simon believes that it is unlikely that branded toys form more than 25 percent of the market currently.
“We are more focussed on developing a community of engaged parents and teachers with whom we will collaborate to co-create products and content based on their parenting and teaching experience,” he adds.
Growth since inception
Toiing started with Do-it-yourself (DIY) kits and since then has expanded into board games, party games, and outdoor toys. So far, they have developed more than 40 SKUs across categories in the past year, and earn an average revenue of Rs 8 lakh per month.
The team of 15 is strongly supported by an extended team of The Bucketlist. “This allows Toiing to plug and play resources from design, business development, operations and client servicing based on requirements and this unusual way of working has helped us churn out quality products, collateral and creatives at a rapid pace in low budgets,” says Simon.
Any manufacturer making products for children’s recreation is a competitor for Toiing.
“We all fight for a child’s attention span and the parent’s wallet share. Given the overtly cluttered market, the competition varies from the likes of Funskool and Mattel to a plethora of Chinese unbranded imports,” says Simon.
However, Simon adds that Toiing’s USP is the design of its products and the insightful concepts they are based on. He claims that they have received great response from customers to Toistalgia – the range of Nostalgic Indian games. “They were thrilled to share their childhood with their children and this has validated our belief in our capabilities to delight a parent consumer,” he adds.
Besides expanding on online channels, Toiing plans to triple sales by developing its offline distribution across key towns in India too. It want to create more ROI-driven alternative channels to enhance reach.
Simon claims that they have been receiving interest from customers in the US, UK, UAE, and Singapore for Indian-themed toys too. “So, we are looking to expand into countries which have a sizeable population of Indian expatriates. We’ll be exploring this through the Amazon Global Store and are also exploring tie-ups with importers in these countries,” he says.
The biggest challenges Toiing faces are discoverability and entry barriers posed by the high margin expectation in trade. It is working on ROI-led location-based BTL activations which will create awareness in catchment areas and drive footfall to key retailers in the area.
“We are also working on a range of products which fall into high-demand product categories like return gifts and party games for kids but also solve the problem of limited options of thoughtful, homegrown products available to parents. These, while being insightful, are also much simpler for the retailers to understand and pitch, making the range a lot more relevant and saleable for trade,” adds Simon.
After fine-tuning its business model and making their channels of distribution more efficient, Toiing plans to raise external funding to scale up the business through wider distribution and a higher manufacturing capacity. Toiing aims to break even by 2020.