, Georgia (PressExposure) June 25, 2008 -- Demand for toys from India has grown astonishingly after the 2007 toy recalls. Scares about lead and toxic chemicals in Chinese toys has provided a window of opportunity for the Indian toy industry, and one town has taken full advantage of the situation.
Channapatna, a small, rural town outside of Bangalore, has been making traditional toys out of all natural materials for centuries. Ever since an eighteenth century sultan invited Persian artisans to train the local craftspeople, the town has produced thousands of toys and trinkets made of wood, vegetable dyes, and resin. The tradition of toy making is deeply ingrained in the very identity of the town.
Yet five years ago, the Channapatna toy industry was on the verge of collapse. The toys they manufactured were unable to stand up to competition from their cheap, plastic Chinese counterparts. Raw materials were hard to come by and those seeking to use the local forestry were often met with stiff bureaucratic resistance. Even if the toys could be successfully manufactured, there was no organized effort to market and sell the pieces.
Partially in thanks to the Chinese toy scares of last year, however, the Channapatna toy craft has been revived. NGO's and trade associations are springing up throughout the province to help establish the infrastructure needed to support the industry. The government has constructed a Lacquerware Craft Complex with 32 lathe machines, wood is more easily available, and toy prototypes are now designed by leading craftsmen and introduced to the individual artisans. Even the Dutch government has stepped in to provide financial assistance.
Now more than 6000 people in Channapatna are working in 250 home manufacturing units and 50 small factories, and toy manufacturing is the main source of livelihood for most of the town's residents.
Initially, Channapatna's traditional Indian toys were made from rosewood, ivory-wood, and sandalwood. The use of ivory-wood, however, has now been banned, and rosewood and sandalwood have become quite expensive; Channapatna's toymakers now use cedar, pine, teak, or any other sort of wood available.
Manufacturing the toys involves several stages. The wood must first be procured and seasoned. Then it is cut into the appropriate shape, pruned and carved to add details, and finally colored with vegetable dyes and polished.
Now that the town's once-foundering toy industry has been revived, consumers have been so attracted to Channapatna's all-natural products that the town's craftspeople have begun to look beyond playthings to home accessories and decorative items.