NEW DELHI,31.08.20-Indian toy industry growth has been jeopardized for more than a decade by a deluge of Chinese imports. Recently, government increased import duty on toys by 200 per cent and made toy quality certification mandatory with a view to reviving the indigenous toy industry. However, high import prices may not shift demand towards local toysunless a re-orientation ofpreferences of Indian consumers habituated to Chinese toys takes place. With the COVID-19 crisis triggering a re-consideration of our beliefs towards globalization, never before has this re-orientation become as relevant as it has in 2020.

Behavioral sciences research suggests that policy interventions best alter people’s habits when supportive changes are naturally occurring in their environment. In a COVID-19 world, consumers habits are witnessing a shift in their choice architecture towards safer and quality products. Government has taken due cognizance of this shift by giving a clarion call to “Go-Local”.Toy market is no exception to this trend. This is where the role of behavioral economics becomes salient in bridging the intent-outcome gap towards development of an Atma-Nirbhar toy industry.

The first intervention should be toestablish a new norm of purchasing safe and good quality Made-in-India toys as against cheapand poor-quality imported toys. Government may embed this message in the branding of Made-in-India toys and popularize dedicated toy stores withregion-wise brand logos. Adverts may be designed to target children and parents as influencers in building Made-in-India brand loyalty as Amul and Maggi have done in their marketing campaigns. Schools may observe a Safe Made-in-India Toy Day and further strengthen the normby procuring local toys from manufacturers under various educational schemes of Government.

Secondly, make it easy to manufacture, sell and buy Made-in-India toys. Uniform import duties and GST rates across product categories under HS 95 without classification ambiguities will help toy manufacturers. An easy-to-read trade guide on the toy industry consolidating all incentives offered by Government along the supply chain will be further helpful. Consumers will also find it easier to purchase Made-in-India toys when these are placed at eye level and in attractive corners in shops, emporiums, local bazaars, fairs, zoos and museums among others. Consumers will be further enthused seeing local cultural ethos embedded in product design and packaging of toys. Ed-tech startups, for example, can embed Indian temple architecture in building block sets, Chatrunga in chess game sets, Pachesi in ludo game sets and Amar-Chitra Katha and Panchatantra themes in general merchandize.

Evidencesuggests that ethnocentric consumer preferences are stronger duringthe youth period. Thus, at this stage, it becomes necessary to repeatedly reinforce messages to re-directyouth choices towards Made-in-India toys. Messages invoking country-of-origin effects, such as, “Every 1 Rupee purchase of Made-in-India toy provides employment to 5Indian youths”, can be reinforced on billboards, online retail outlets, in shops and other public places. Personalized messages may be sent to consumers thanking them for purchasing a Made-in-India toy and showing them photographs of craftsmen who will benefit from a repeat purchase.

Toy market is characterized by wide-ranging product differentiation and more so when Chinese imports are pitted against Indian toys. Product differentiation can be re-aligned in India’s favor when positive evaluation reports and customer reviews of Made-in-India toys are disclosed and popularized to generate online and off-line word-of-mouth. Further, awardsfor safe and sustainable traditional toysmay be instituted to encourage local producers.

Finally, consumer’s loss aversion of missing out on low-priced imported toys can be reduced by offering a safe and sustainable Made-in-India alternative such as wooden educational Chennapatna toys revived by NGO Maaya Organic, and traditional board games like 'Chausar' and 'pallankuzhi promoted by Sutradhar. These alternatives emphasize the concept of circular economy in contrast to the linear economy of “make, use, and dispose” that characterize low-cost imports. This is demonstrated by Quality Council of India December 2019 survey which found that 67 per cent of imported toys are dangerous for kids.

Behavioral tools are, therefore, critical in building a new indigenous toy story in a post-COVID Atmanirbhar Bharat. Adam Smith, in his 1759 book Theory of Moral Sentiments, noted, “For these lovers of toys, it is not so much the utility, as the aptness of the machines which are fitted to promote it”. Let’s not miss this bus for children can hardly wait for their little machines.


Ms. Sanjana Kadyan is a civil servant of the Indian Economic Service (2016 batch) and is currently working as Assistant Director in the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance.She works in the areas ofmacro-economic monitoring, domestic and global national accounts analysis and risk surveillance of the Indian economy as part of Economic Division (Macro Unit) and the Office of Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India. Her empirical research enables macro-critical policy evaluationand guidance for Government of India and finds fruition in the annual flagship document i.e. Economic Survey. She has previously handled infrastructure policy issues and investment financing proposals as part of Infrastructure Division, DEA. Her research areas are behavioral economics, macro-economics and development economics. Before joining the civil service, she was an Assistant Professor at Department of Economics, Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi. She is an Economics graduate of Lady Shri Ram College and post-graduate of Centre of Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Ms. Tulsipriya Rajkumari is an Indian Economic Service officer from 2014 batch, presently working in the capacity of Deputy Director in the Economic Division (Macro Unit) and Chief Economic Adviser’s office, D/o Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. A part of the critical research and policy wing of DEA that provides a holistic assessment of the state of the economy spanning across sectors, builds capacity towards enabling evidence based policy interventions through real time tracking of economic indicators. Part ofTeam Economic Survey, a culmination of careful data examination, research and analysis, rendering informed policy suggestions and guiding growth outlook for the year ahead.Ms. Rajkumari also worked in Direct Benefit Transfer Mission, Cabinet Secretariat in the capacity of an Assistant Director wherein key responsibilities included enabling transition of welfare schemes of the Government to Aadhaar based DBT platform in association with implementing Ministries/Departments and State Governments, enhancing financial inclusion and establish data standardisation of location codes across Government. Her key areas of interest include Macroeconomics, International Trade, Behavioural Economics, Evidence based policy evaluation. Prior to joining the service, she had worked for two and a half years as a Business Analyst with Target Corporation Ltd, Bengaluru. Ms.Rajkumari has an M.Phil and post graduate degree in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University.