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franchise model 2017-02-24

Future of Indian toys market is extremely promising: R. Jeswant

One of India’s largest branded toys company, Funskool is expanding at a fast pace via franchisees.

By Ekta Sharma Feature Writer

According to Funskool, franchise model has really worked well and in the Indian Toy Industry, Funskool and Mattel are the largest players in the branded toys market.

Part of the MRF Group, One of India’s largest branded toys company, Funskool is expanding at a faster rate via franchisees. R. Jeswant,Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing for Funskool India says that franchising model has worked well for us. In the Indian Toy Industry Funskool and Mattel are the largest players in the branded toys market.We spoke to R. Jeswant on the insights of the Indian Toy Industry and its future.

What has been the most challenging part with Funskool? Being an Indian Toy brand were there any hurdles?
The biggest hurdle is the size of the market and lack of awareness about toys. There is very little history for toys in India and most parents have not been exposed to branded toys. Funskool, has its own brands and represent several leading toy brands of the world. The perception of Funskool is that of a high quality toy manufacturer and marketer. Our customers see us as a preferred supplier. No, being an Indian Toy brand has not been a disadvantage. The single biggest hurdle to the growth of toy retail in India is the unviable rentals in shopping malls.

What are your views on franchise model and why have you chosen it to open stores? What is its biggest benefit?
The franchisee has ownership for the stores, which is critical for success. Most of our franchisees have retail experience and have been closely associated with Funskool in some capacity for long. The franchisee has better knowledge of market conditions and is better equipped to solve local issues. The model has worked well for us.

Do you think the Indian Toy market has grown since a last few years, seeing the incoming of multiple international brands in India?
The global toy market is about $85 Billion USD and the Indian toy market is worth Rs.2750 crore (a little over US$ 400 million) which makes the Indian market roughly 0.5 % of the world toy market. This is also an indication of the promise that the market holds out for the future and that is the reason why most international Toy companies see a great opportunity in India in the future. We expect the market to grow exponentially as business and purchasing power keep growing. The Indian Toy market is growing faster than most markets. However, as of now, the base is small. The future is extremely promising.

How many stores do you have currently and which cities you wish to target now?
We currently have 18 retail stores in India, including an exclusive LEGO store in Chennai. Our stores are located in Chennai (3), Udaipur, Thane, Kalyan, Surat, Bangalore (2), Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Madurai, Ghaziabad, Indore, Coimbatore, Amritsar, Hosur and Kochi. We are planning to increase the count to 25-30 stores in 2017.

Who are your competitors?
All toy manufacturers and marketers are competitors and for that matter anyone marketing children’s recreational products are competitors. In the Indian Toy Industry Funskool and Mattel are the largest players in the branded toys market.

How is the quality check done in your industry and steps taken to stop duplicacy?
|We have a full fledged quality control team who ensure that the products conform to the relevant quality standards. Knock off’s are a problem especially in products like Rubik’s cubes and Beyblades, but customer awareness is growing and more customers are becoming aware of the need to buy safe toys for children.

Is Funskool going international too? Any plans as such?
We are now focusing on building our own brands in addition to representing many of the leading toy brands like LEGO, Hasbro, Takara Tomy, Leapfrog, Siku , ravensburger etc in the Indian market. Our own brands like Giggles (infant & preschool toys), Handycrafts (Arts & Crafts) Play’N’Learn (educational puzzles) Fun Dough (our dough brand) and several indigenously developed as well as generic games are very popular in the Indian market. Our brands are now distributed in several countries including the USA & UK. Many international companies also source their products from us.

Do you plan to have a celebrity face for your brand in the near future?
As of now we don’t use a brand ambassador or a celebrity to endorse our products but cannot rule out the possibility in future.

Were there any location challenges while opening stores for Funskool?
Rentals are a major issue particularly for an evolving category like toys. We initially started with stores in Tier II towns where we felt that there was a dearth of toy stores but now haveopened stores in metros and larger cities as well , identifying good malls which lacked good toy specialist stores. We have always tried to identify spaces in areas of the mall where stores catering to kids are located.

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