The next time you buy a soft toy from a global retailer, chances are, it was made in a small unit located in Sri City, an industrial hub in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district.

The range of toys made by Pals Plush India, the subsidiary of a Chinese company, spans everything from ‘huggables’ such as teddy bears and tigers to Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

A tour of the small manufacturing facility, where more than 80 per cent of the workers are local women, shows how the toys evolve from bundles of cotton into huggable possessions.

The women churn out thousands of these toys, which pass through a metal detector before being shipped out of the special economic zone.

Says Seema Nehra, Director of Pals Plush: “It is a great experience working with local people and producing toys for global retail chains. Our toys are sold by chains such as Tesco and through licence arrangements globally.”

It is difficult to operate in the Indian market as organised retail is still evolving, says Nehra. Mothercare, Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle are among its clients in India.

The toys cost between $1 and $150, depending on the form and size. Some take an hour to make, others just a few minutes.

According to an Assocham report, the domestic toy industry is estimated to be worth Rs 8,000 crore, and expected to grow by about 30 per cent by 2015.

D.S. Rawat, Secretary-General of Assocham, says that though the domestic toy market has expanded manifold, the industry is fragmented.

In EXPANSION mode

Pals Plush has set up its Sri City unit with an investment of $1.5 million (about Rs 10 crore). In the first year of operation, it logged a turnover of $7-8 million. The company, which makes about 5,000 pieces a day, is in the process of expanding.

It plans to invest about $3 million in another unit, adjacent to the existing one, with the potential to employ about 1,500 people.

rishikumar.vundi@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 21, 2013)
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