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Toy makers urge government to help promote indigenous products

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Kolkata: All it will take for Indian toy makers to capture a major pie of a Rs.13,000 crore ($2 billion) opportunity is a little push from the government by way of promoting indigenisation to replace the flood of imports largely from China, Taiwan and Italy, manufacturers say.

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The Toy Association of India (TAI), while pegging the country’s market at Rs.13,000 crore during 2015-16, has, however, painted a grim picture as far as Indian manufacturing is concerned.

“Currently, only about 20 percent of the market is served by Indian manufacturers and the rest by import of toys from different countries, mainly from China and Italy,” TAI vice president Pawan Gupta, implying that Indian firms, in the current scenario, will be able to harvest only Rs.2,600 crore from the gigantic pie.

According to TAI, India’s overall toy imports increased at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 25.21 percent between 2001 and 2012 while imports from China and Italy surged at a CAGR of 30 percent and 38.6 per cent respectively during this period.

The Indian manufacturers’ base in the segment comprises mostly of some 4,000 micro-medium firms. Seventy-five percent of these are in the unorganized sector, thereby limiting their scope to upscale production or compete with global brands.

“Competitive countries like China have humongous manufacturing capacities and they flood the markets with their products,” he said.

Lack of adequate finance and distinct clusters for toy manufacturing and low level of product conceptualization and design have been cited as the primary impediments for the industry.

Additionally, hurdles in procurement of critical raw materials have been highlighted as plaguing the Indian small-scale toy makers.

Gupta said the government needs to design simpler procedures for indigenous toy makers to raise capital.

“The success of SMEs in the toy industry can grow manifold if they start working in self-sufficient clusters in certain regions”, he said.

Reputed toy maker Funskool echoed the need for a change in the government’s outlook to boost the industry.

“For toy makers to produce in India and join the Make in India campaign, fundamental changes in the way the government looks at the toy industry is needed”, Funskool (India) CEO John Baby.

The company highlighted installation of proper infrastructure support like R&D, tool-making facilities and testing labs, among others, to enable the growth of indigenous toy manufacturing.

While the sector at present employs around three million people at various skill levels, Baby said the present labor laws do not support the industry to undertake high volume one-run production.

The industry further highlighted the health hazards children may be exposed to when the quality of the materials in the toys are compromised for pricing.

“The cheaper imports of toys, especially from markets like China are available in the market at a lesser price, but their quality is a matter of concern,” Gupta said.

Further, while many global brands are in the process of making their India entry, which will give rise to further innovation and boost the economy, an existing problem has been that most imported toys don’t cater to the needs of Indian children.

“Domestic manufacture also ensures that the Indian buyers get quality and safe toys for their children at affordable prices”, the Funskool official said.

But cheaper imports from the land of the Hans and Tangs alone cannot be blamed for endangering the health of children.

Among the local manufacturers in India, about 59 percent are still focusing on the production of cheap and unbranded toys, thereby compromising on quality.

“In the future it is expected that these companies will shift towards branded toys as well to stay competitive with international companies,” TAI’s Gupta said.

“The coming times are really bright for the toy industry”, Mayank Aggarwal, director of Playwell Implex, a toy distribution company.

He said the industry may touch the Rs.13,000 crore mark by the end of 2015 on account of increasing consumerism and spends from a rapidly expanding middle-class that could comprise over 200 million people by 2020.”The market size is increasing by at least 20 to 25 percent”, Aggarwal.
India’s toy industry caters to an estimated 304.8 million children in the 0-12 age group years and 50 million babies in the 0-2 age group.

(IANS)

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Know About some Significant Protests Around the World in 2019

2019 was a year full of protests globally

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Chile Protests
Demonstrators clash with a police water cannon during anti-government protests in Santiago. VOA

By Jamie Dettmer

It has been a year of protest — from Hong Kong to Bolivia, and from France to Lebanon. Few parts of the world were spared significant protests in 2019.

In Russia’s capital, Moscow, protesters were outraged by rigged elections. In Britain, people rallied against Brexit, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Serbia, Ukraine, Albania and the central European states all experienced major demonstrations. Separatists battled police in the restive region of Catalonia. Dissent in the Middle East prompted talk of a new Arab Spring.

In the Americas, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela all experienced popular unrest. And the list goes on.

France Protests
Yellow Vests protesters march on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris. France’s yellow vest protesters remain a force to be reckoned with five months after their protests started. VOA

“The data shows that the amount of protests is increasing and is as high as the roaring 1960s,” according to Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, an academic who studies social change at Vrije University in Amsterdam.

Protest like it’s 1848

The year 2019 has drawn comparisons to 1848, when the ruling elites and monarchies in Europe were at a loss as to how to deal with the turbulence and anger tearing through the continent.

Then, as now, the immediate grievances propelling protesters onto the streets differed from country to country: 170 years ago, some were protesting at the dysfunction and corruption of their states and anger at hidebound elites for resisting modernization and liberal change. Have-nots marched out of economic despair. Nationalists wanted to break away from empires. Anarchists wanted to blow everything up.

In the so-called Spring of Nations — revolutions of 1848 — seemingly small incidents or government decisions could spark the trouble. So, too, in 2019.

France’s Yellow Vests, drawn largely from low-income earners in small-town and rural France, took to the streets and blockaded roads to protest higher “green” taxes on fuel. The same in Chile and Ecuador — planned sharp rises in fuel prices and metro fares triggered the fury this year of low-income and rural communities.

But behind the immediate causes, far more substantive and structural grievances have fueled the worldwide protests. In Lebanon, demonstrators initially took to the streets because of frustration over a tax on WhatsApp, but that was just the spark for an ongoing conflagration of rage over corruption and Iranian influence on the country. The Yellow Vest agitation morphed into a general exasperation about being left-behind economically.

Hong Kong protesters
A photo of protests in Hong Kong against the Extradition Bill. VOA

In Hong Kong, an extradition bill was the prompt, but also a symbolic one for protesters furious about a creeping Beijing-dictated authoritarianism.

The 2019 protests have had some common themes, say analysts, including anger about stifled democracy and the demand for greater political freedom. Anger about corruption and the perception that political systems are rigged have been common grievances.

Some commentators have tried to tie all the protests together, arguing rallies and demonstrations and blockades more often than not are a reaction to anti-democratic and right-wing forces taking hold in many places around the world.

Maybe so for some but not all, and there are plenty of contradictions. And then and now, protesters on the left or right of the political spectrum share on thing in common — a firm conviction that things should and can change.

One big difference with the past, though, has come with social media and the internet. Modern communication has helped to fuel anger and assist greatly in the organization and recruitment of protesters to take on authorities.

“The traditional system of enforcing power from top to bottom is increasingly being challenged,” says Thierry de Montbrial, of the French Institute of International Relations.

Populist nationalists rallying in the past year in Italy and Germany have nothing in common with huge pro-EU protests in Britain, where those taking to the streets wanted to force a second referendum on leaving the European bloc. Climate-change protesters sowing havoc in Britain and Australia are demanding the kind of green tax increases that are enraging the Yellow Vests.

“Some protests may look like a sign of democratic decay amid a rise of populism and alienation with the political status quo — for example, in Brazil, the United States or France,” according to Richard Youngs, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington-based research institution.

ALGERIA protests
People gather for mass anti-government protests in the centre of the Algerian capital Algiers. VOA

“Others may look like a futile rattling of the political cage under growing illiberalism and authoritarianism, such as in Hungary, Morocco or Thailand. More optimistically, protests in places like Algeria, Venezuela and Sudan may signal a heartening indicator of the persistent aspiration for democracy and peoples’ willingness to fight for it in very different parts of the world,” he added in a commentary.

Maybe the attempt to impose a catch-all order to the unrest of 2019 misses the point and the historical comparison should be with the immediate years of upheaval after World War I. In a new book, “Crucible: The Long End of the Great War and the Birth of a New World, 1917-24,” historian Charles Emmerson suggests that countries lose all their moorings during periods of unrest and the result is just chaos.

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“The established order is swept away,” writes Emmerson. “People who were nothing are catapulted into prominence … the real becomes surreal.”

In the immediate postwar years that Emmerson chronicles, many people felt powerless, lost faith in the ability of traditional political authorities to protect them and to restore predictability, and resented unequal distributions of wealth and power. So, too, now. (VOA)