These 5 startups make handcrafted toys that help kids have fun and learn
For centuries, children and toys have gone hand in hand. In ancient times, toys were made from natural materials such as cloth, clay, rock, soil, hay, and bamboo. But things changed when plastic took over the world and the market was soon flooded with plastic toys of all shapes, sizes, and kinds.
Chinese players dominated the toy market for a long time, but a mindset shift has led to parents demanding toys that are better and do more for their children. They want toys that are eco-friendly and aid in children’s physical and mental development instead of just adding to the plastic clutter around the house.
Indian players jumped into the market with ground-breaking and technologically advanced methods to enhance domestic toy production, backing initiatives such as "Vocal for local" and more - especially during the pandemic.
According to an imarc report, the Indian toy market was valued at $1.35 billion in 2021, and is projected to reach $2.73 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 12.6 percent during 2022-2027.
The data shows that India’s share of the global toy market is less than 1 percent and is worth $678.30–$813.96 million.
Here are some made-in-India toy startups offering products that help in children’s physical and mental development while ensuring fun and learning:
Founded by Nisha Ramasamy and Vasanth in 2018, Chennai-based toy startupWooden offers developmental toys such as learning towers, teethers, push-and-pull toys, indoor gyms, sky mobiles, teethers, rattlers, and puzzles made of neem wood.
Nisha Ramasamy and Vasanth Tamilselvan, Co-founders of Ariro Wooden Toys
The startup has 80 SKUs, with products priced between Rs 200 and Rs 19,000. It operates on dual models of B2B and B2C, and its products are available on around 20 ecommerce platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart.
"0-3 is a very important age where most development takes place. It is a time when the child will be able to communicate very little and it is up to the adults to see to their needs," Nisha says.
"We take the children’s sensitivity and physical development into account in the design by considering that a four-month-old can grip only in a certain way," she adds.
Founded in 2016 by Kartik Talwar and Simon Jacob, Mumbai-basedstartup offers DIY story craft kits, painting kits, toys, and nostalgic Indian games. The private-labelled brand offers toys and activities for kids from age 3 to 8.
The startup claims that its products, such as board games, outdoor toys, craft kits, and party games, are designed based on collaboration, ‘Indian-ness’, and innovation. The toys and games are designed to help develop social and emotional intelligence in kids through play.
The range is priced between Rs 300 and Rs 400, and products straddle price points from Rs 20 to Rs 1,499. The startup claims it has been receiving interest from customers from the US, the UAE, Singapore, and the UK.
"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," Simon says.
Founded in 2012 by Swapna Wagh, Thane-based startupoffers traditional Indian games and toys with a touch of Indian art to make them truly Indian and unique. The startup claims that products are hand-made by artisans.
Its product portfolio includes spinning tops or lattu, a chauka board game with a Ramayana theme, the chaupad or pacheesi board game with a Nanha Kanha theme, and the quintessential brass miniature kitchen set, putt putt boat, and others. Products are available on ecommerce websites such as Flipkart, Firstcry, Amazon, Snapdeal, and its own site.
"My childhood included all these wonderful games. With the limited options in the gadget world, I always think my childhood was way better. This is exactly what made me start Desi Toys, because one doesn't get to see such toys in good quality sold in cities today – not to mention that the prolonged use of gadgets causes health issues, and also affects children’s skill development and physical movement," Swapna says.
Founded in 2016 by Meeta Sharma Gupta, Bengaluru-based startupoffers development-friendly, safe toys and games for children aged 0 to 8.
Shumee toys are designed and created by in-house teams from India’s top design schools, including NIFT and NID, and are also handcrafted by local artisans using cotton, wood, and other natural child-safe materials. The toys are certified for safety by international standards like EN71 and ASTM.
The startup claims to sell over 200,000 toys in six countries. Its products are available on marketplaces like Amazon and its own site.
"Children learn through play; learning should not be forced on them. We have over 100 toys and games at Shumee, and none of them is 'educational' in the typical sense. They encourage open-ended play led by the child’s own imagination and will. As the child plays, they hone age-appropriate skills, including fine and gross motor and sensory skills in early months, and problem-solving, creativity, and communication later," Meeta says.
In October 2021, actor, producer, and sustainability advocate Dia Mirza invested an undisclosed amount in the wooden toy brand.
Imagimake Play Solutions
Founded by Disha Katharani and Ravi Kumar in 2012, Mumbai-based startupPlay Solutions offers a range of innovative and constructive toys and games across themes that help children with education, learning, and creative development.
Picture credit: Imagimake Play website
The products are available across offline and online channels in about 25 countries across the world. They are available on marketplaces such as Amazon, FirstCry, and Flipkart, as well as across over 2,000 offline stores in India.
"We now want to build on this strong foundation to scale our business and launch new product lines. With an increasing propensity to spend and more discerning millennials entering parenthood, we believe that the market for our educational and creative products is ripe for growth,” Ravi says.
In August 2021, the startup raised an undisclosed round from Velocity to expand its product portfolio and fulfil unmet demand in India and other international markets.