The outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which has killed over 1000 people alone in China, may dampen the spirit of imminent Holi celebrations in India, as the celebration this year may face shortage of China-made fancy water guns and sprinklers.
In Mumbai alone, 20-25 Chinese toys importers every year bring about 5 lakh pieces of water pressure guns attached with small water tanks of 18 and 24 inches, and each costing about Rs 300-500. Currently, traders have no stock for this year and in the current situation, it will be difficult to import in bulk as the Holi is just few weeks away on March 9-10.
Normally, the Indian toy traders start ordering the Chinese Holi colours and sprinklers soon after the Chinese New year, as the consignments from the Chinese toy industry take 14-30 days to reach India. This year, the Chinese new year was on January 25, but with the outbreak of coronavirus, the reopening of the factories that normally happens after two weeks of celebrations were extended in many parts of China.
"We are assessing the situation and are hopeful of ordering consignments," said Abdullah Sharif, Vice- President of United Toys Association of Mumbai.
An Assocham survey two years ago, among about 250 manufacturers, sellers, suppliers and traders of Holi colours, water guns and other such products across India, had said there was a price differential of over 55 per cent between innovative and fancy Chinese Holi toys and colours and almost all traditional 'pichkari' (water gun or sprinkler). It has almost disappeared from the markets due to lack of consumer interest.
"Still traditional 'pichkari' guns are cheaper than the fancy and attractive pressure water guns, now popular among the public," said a spokesperson of the United Toys Association.
India's toy industry, worth about Rs 4,000 crore, is dominated by Chinese imports to the tune of 85 per cent. Of the Chinese toy exports, India accounts for only 5 per cent and the Indian manufacturers do not make battery-operated innovative toys, the most proffered toys among children. Most toys reaching India are manufactured in Guangdong, a coastal province in South China, whereas the novel coronavirus's epic centre is in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, about 1000 kilometers away.
The Indian importers of toys do not stock for more than a month, and no new consignments have come from China for the last one month, said sources. With the added coronavirus issue, the imported toy traders are already reeling under the proposed hike of 200 per cent in import duty on toys from the next fiscal year, as in the last two years, the import duty on toys has been increased around 500 per cent to protect the domestic manufacturers.
"Presently, India imports 85 per cent toys in the industry annually, out of which 75 per cent are from China. The toy industry is not prepared to sustain with such drastic hike in the custom duty and will make the toys unaffordable for the customers, decreasing the sales of toys tremendously and adversely affecting the livelihood of millions of people, including more than a lakh retailers," said Abdullah Sharif. The Toy Association of Mumbai was recently formed to voice against the policy of hiking import duty on toys from 20 per cent to 60 per cent.
The Indian manufacturers, mostly in the small scale sector and only a few hundreds, contribute only around 15 per cent of the toys to the Indian market. As against this, there are thousands of importers from China, including large-scale organised importers.
The Indian toy Industry currently does not have a viable ecosystem to support toy production on a large scale and lack resources for innovation to compete viably with the Chinese manufacturers in terms of volume, design, finish and pricing.