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Funskool plans big for IIT-devised board games

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Growing interest in board games
Growing interest in board games

Sravanthi Challapalli

Chennai, Jan. 2 Do Chakra View and Mahawar sound familiar? As the names suggest, they take off on the Mahabharata and are the titles of board games the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) of IIT Bombay designed earlier this year. Funskool India, the Chennai-based toy and game manufacturer, is producing and marketing these games. Four have been launched already and another two are in the pipeline.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr R. Jeswant, General Manager (Sales & Marketing), Funskool India, said the company has “very big plans” for the board games designed by the IDC-IIT. The packs have the IIT logo displayed prominently and Funskool will even launch a TV campaign some time in the future to build the IIT games brand, he said.

Four strategy-centric games — Chakra View, Triplets, Gotcha and Sixteen Fifteen (all priced Rs 399 each) — have been launched a couple of months ago while Mahawar and another are likely to be on the market by April. The response has been encouraging, says Mr Jeswant. “There is a definite interest in these games. They also represent an Indian line of board games, of which there aren’t many, and we are looking at continued collaboration with IIT,” he said.

Mr Uday Athavankar, Professor of Design at IDC, says these games were born out of an elective, Board Game Design, that was offered last year at IIT. Fifteen students were organised into teams that developed these six games, following which Funskool was invited for a demonstration, he said. The elective course ended with 30 children from the IIT campus being invited to play these games. Funskool executives too joined in and a collaborative agreement followed.

Mr Athavankar, who has 38 years’ experience in design, has been devising games for many years now. Some of them, such as Tangle, based on the ancient Chinese puzzle tangram, and Discover India, through which school children can familiarise themselves with the country’s geography, are produced and marketed by other companies. Prof Athavankar is also collaborating with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation to help the Indian toy industry design with indigenous products that can combat the competition from Chinese ones.

Despite the slowdown, Funskool has had a very good December when it grew almost 35 per cent over the previous corresponding period, Mr Jeswant said. Its recent launches, Monopoly India, Kho-Kho and Nerfs, have seen much success, he added. According to him, toys tend to do better during recessionary periods. “My own view is that when people defer big-ticket purchases such as real estate, automobiles and consumer durables, they do not have loans to pay off and so when children ask for games, parents happily part with the money,” he explained. Funskool has its own design team and its board game, Game of Witz, was named Best Toy of the Year in 2007 by the All India toy Manufacturers’ Association.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 3, 2009)
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