India File

Channapatna sees a revival

Anil Urs | Updated on October 06, 2020

Easy coexistence: Traditional and modern styles   -  THE HINDU

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives of companies are altering the prospects for wooden toys of Channapatna, the ‘toy city’ between Bengaluru and Mysuru. As companies open their CSR purse, it is aiding bulk buying of toys, giving artisans a lifeline or helping toy makers modernise (handmade to machine) their toy-making processes.

A modest initiative by IAS officer Lukose Vallatharai, who as CMD of Karnataka State Handicraft Development Corporation (KSHDC) a decade ago pushed (NGOs to take up revival of Channapatna toys, is paying off.

“This intervention has led many social enterprises to work for the upliftment of artisans. Since early 2000, the number of traditional artisans in Channapatna has been slowly increasing. Now there are estimated to be around 3,000 toy making families and a good number of small companies involved in trading and on e-commerce platforms,” says Sai Swaroop, a management consultant.

As a result of the KSHDC’s efforts one can see many organisations setting up craft design and marketing companies that get their products made ethically by working directly with artisan communities. The Channapatna Crafts Park, housing a cluster of over 3,000 traditional artisans, has come up as well. The park, by establishing a common facility service centre with wood working machines, has helped many new craftsmen.

Traditional to modern

The Bengaluru airport holding company, BIAL too has pitched into market the products. It provides Channapatna toys a space in the airport’s shopping area. According to Swaroop, “Revival of Channapatna toys hinged on modernisation of toy making. Yes initially it was tough on families, now they operate out of homes with small lathes and turn out more toys per day.”

He adds: “Thanks to public sector banks, especially Canara Bank which offers both training and finance to families involved in toy making, many have benefited.”

A senior Canara Bank official says: “We are working towards developing and promoting traditional arts and crafts by offering counselling and project consultancy. The bank has set up Artisans Training Institutes at Harohalli in Kanakapura taluk near Bengaluru, which are hand-holding toy makers.”

Expanding product range

After the entry of NGOs, toy entrepreneurs and few small companies in the field, there has been an expansion in the product range of toys. Besides traditional offerings such as the rocking horse, bullock carts and bangles, catering to children alone, there has been a diversification towards modern items – fashion accessories, corporate gifts, kitchen accessories, lifestyle products, wooden furniture, educational aids, natural fibre products, cane and bamboo articles and furniture.

A toymaker, Shafi, of Channapatana, says: “The April-November period are the busy months. We make what market (orders) comes to us. The other months we do other work orders for other industries or end up doing agriculture related activities.”

Overseas demand

Toy makers send their products to US and European countries as they receive a good amount of orders for Christmas and New Year, especially for lacquered and hand-crafted wooden products. Before the modernisation push, toy makers faced multiple hardships in the local market. They had to compete with cheap Chinese imports or replicas. Also a significant chunk of toymakers of Channapatna were at the mercy of exploitative local distributors.

That is changing with multiple stakeholder interventions.

Karnataka in 2019-20 exported $36.18 million worth of toys which consisted of plastic, wooden, metal and mechanical. Plastic toys are highest with $27.25 million followed by other material toys such as machine-made wooden toys ($8.57 million) and wooden toys (Channapatna toys) with $0.34 million. The State ranks second after Maharashtra, says Gaurav Gupta, Karnataka’s Principal Secretary, Commerce & Industries Department.

N Vijendra Babu, founder of Micro Plastics Pvt, a contract manufacturer and exporters of toys, model hobby kits and sport equipment to US, UK and European brands, says: “Chanappatna toy makers need not fear. The State government is focussing on promotion of different segments of toys – mechanical, soft and machine wood toys. Karnataka has emerged as a huge toy sourcing base (by MNCs) for the global market.”

Published on October 05, 2020

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