Putting Indian toys on the global map

PlayShifu co-founders Vivek Goyal and Dinesh Advani

At the ongoing India Toy Fair 2021—inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi—educational toys for kids have taken centre-stage. “The Indian toy market, estimated at $1 billion, is growing at the rate of 10-15% every year. Educational/STEM toys account for over 30% of all toys, and parents are investing in smart toys that are both fun and educational,” said Vivek Goyal, co-founder & CEO, PlayShifu—the Indian start-up that offers educational toys under three platforms: Orboot (AR-powered globe), Plugo (story-based STEM game kits) and Tacto (board games with digital gameplay; it will be launched later this year).

PlayShifu toys are currently being used by over 6 lakh children across 35 countries.

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Goyal added that such toys can bridge the gap between day-to-day studies and practical hands-on learning, and also help build STEM skills in children, which is the focus of the National Education Policy 2020. “STEM learning can be introduced to children as early as their second birthday,” he said. “This learning can become more engaging with educational toys, especially those that provide phygital interactions.”

A recent report by the Early Childhood STEM Working Group (University of Chicago) noted that introducing high-quality early STEM experiences during early age provides much-needed stimulus to children’s natural curiosity.

During the Covid-19 lockdown and the resultant schooling at home, PlayShifu witnessed all-time highs in returning users, time spent and activity progress. “Our active user count shot up by 60% in the first three weeks of the lockdown. Children collectively spent 20.8 million minutes on our Orboot and Plugo platforms, resulting in 45% jump in daily activity from March through May. Similar trends continued throughout the year,” Goyal said. “We added 3.5 lakh new users across the world by the end of 2020. With 63% kids deeply engaged beyond 30 days, we are happy with the lasting impact we made in these testing times.”

PlayShifu saw the first major surge in demand in late-February post schools shutting down. The next spike was in mid-March when it made the Orboot app free-for-all. Over 30,000 new parents downloaded Orboot and Plugo between March and May. “In January-August 2020, our Amazon sales grew by 400% as compared to the same period the year earlier, and our direct to consumer sales on our website grew by a whopping 1,300%,” Goyal added. “Also, between March and May 2020, online purchases from tier-2 and tier-3 cities went up by 60% and users from tier-2 and tier-3 cities grew by 20% on our platforms.”

Goyal said the ongoing Toy Fair 2021 will put Indian toy-making on the global map. “While we already manufacture in India, we are looking forward to sparking new connections with more local partners and furthering our collective cause to bring joy to every child across the country. The fair is a huge opportunity that can benefit the entire ecosystem, and enable us all to thrive.”

The government, on its part, has been making efforts towards the evolution of the toy industry in general. Recently, it introduced the safety BIS certification for the toy industry that has been made mandatory from January 2021 onwards. Additionally, state governments have been contributing to this initiative by planning to allocate land for dedicated toy parks and arenas.

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