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Feb, 11 2013

NO KIDDING, THIS IS A GAINFUL BUSINESS

A toy is a child's best companion. But buying new toys every month gets hard on one's pocket. Catch a glimpse of toy libraries that offer toys on rent even as the concept is a rewarding business proposition at a low investment.

SHELVES are decked up with myriad colourful toys, including building blocks, puzzles, board games, dolls and soft toys, video games and many more. Some children are fumbling to choose their favourite toy from the racks, while some are riding on the wooden horses with a pride and poise anyone would feel sitting on the real one. Well, this is not a description of a toy shop or a nursery classroom but of a toy library where kids come in as its members and get their favourite toys on rent.

The concept of toy libraries has its roots in the West but gained quick popularity in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. The Indian toy industry that caters to about all age groups of kids witnessed a robust rise in the recent times mainly due to increasing disposable incomes of parents and rise in the demand for educational toys. Educational toys and other learning aids are also gaining popularity among educated working parents who feel that toys perform an essential role in their children's development. But purchasing toys every time according to the aptitude of the child and the right age is a way too steep for parents when their kids have just learned to identify colours and shapes.

The good news is that there are alternatives open to find ways of providing toys and games for children, even in a tight economic situation. Toy libraries are the only solution to the concern of such parents where their children could be exposed to different sorts of games and toys as per their age, requirement, ability and skills. Toy libraries are equivalent to book libraries where toys could be taken on rent for a week preferably by children who are the main decision makers with regard to buying toys. Toy libraries have a fantastic supply of DVDs, CDs and toys.

Market outlook

Though the market size of the Indian toy industry is expected to reach Rs 13,000 crore by the year 2015, as against Rs 7,500 crore currently, due to the climbing consumerism and growing population as per the study of the industry body the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, the concept of toy library is quite nascent in its comparison.

Toy library business is no rocket science, but when it comes to selection of toys it becomes difficult, as everything does not go on rent. One needs to study the demography of the area before setting up a store. These things are easily managed when one goes the franchising way which is suitable for homemakers and retired persons as part-time job or for additional income.

Interestingly, the concept of toy library caters

Not only to the demands of parents and their kids but it also provides low-cost/ home- based business opportunities through franchising for many people. For this there is no need to possess any additional skill or qualification.  Chandigarh-based Davinder Malhotra, who has 15 years of experience in the field of education, started her franchise business of toy library by the name of Rent Me Toy. She says: “I saw parents buying toys and then carrying them from place to place. Also many times parents felt that though they could buy toys, it's of no use as their child played with them only for a week and thereafter these toys became junk. That was the point when I decided to open a toy library to cater to the needs of kids from birth to 8 years of age.”

Play way franchising

The popularity of toy library concept in India is mainly restricted to tier-I and II cities. But the concept is witnessing growth, especially in the last few years.

Many brands of toy libraries are now operational in the Indian market via franchising. Manisha Shah, Founder, Air Buddies, believes: “With the rising inflation every year, parents cannot fulfil the demands of their growing children for toys and games. The idea of fulfilling the demand for the right toy for the right age of children gave me the inspiration to commence a toy library franchise. Our libraries provide membership to parents after which they can get toys on rent for a week or two and can get it exchanged with others. The concept of renting toys gives them the options for a variety of toys while helping in the development of their children without any additional monthly burden on their pockets.”

Another brand Kids Gurukul is among the early players in this sector. According to the brand, the rising prices of toys and the lack of storage space in apartments are two of the main reasons behind the popularity of toy libraries. Kids Gurukul has libraries in Delhi and NCR and is set to spread its footprints all across India via franchising.

However, Neeta Verma, Founder of online toy library Rentoy.in feels: “Franchising is a complete hassle-free way to get started faster on an entrepreneurial journey in a structured way. At Rentoy.in, we empower our franchise partners in multiple ways to make it convenient and focused by standardising operating procedure. We offer both online and offline models, which make it convenient for housewives too depending on their availability.”

Opportunity

Most toy libraries in India offer various membership plans where kids can exchange toys every week. Besides, big outdoor toys such as rockers and slides can also be borrowed for a day on occasion of birthday parties. The library offers home delivery service too which both kids and their parents love.

Mumbai-based Air Buddies is a business that provides an opportunity for franchisees to make additional income with the flexibility of operating from home. It also organises workshops and events for children. Manisha Shah asserts: “The franchisee of our brand should love kids, understand their psychology, know which toy is appropriate for a particular age group and should be able to help parents choose the right toy”.

While Rentoy.in offers two types of models for entrepreneurs that includes Internet-based (online) Toy Rental and the other is store-based (offline) Toy Rental powered with online facilities. “Depending upon their time commitment and personal priorities, franchisees can choose any of these models. The Internet- based model doesn't need them to be in the field all the time as compared to the store-based one. It enables them to switch between their personal and business priorities more efficiently and effectively,” says Neeta.

The concept of toy libraries is best suited for housewives and mompreneurs who want to work from the comfort of their home. “In case you start a toy library from your home and dedicate the evening hours to it, it's more than enough. No one is going to come at 11 am from his office to change toys. The rush is only in the evenings, when even a homemaker has finished her daily chores,” says Davinder.

Hurdles to overcome

Talking about the major challenges, Neeta feels that presently the economic system has become very supportive of entrepreneurs. “However, the major challenge faced by us is of juggling through multiple priorities between home and business. These challenges are usually during initial days of the business but find no place once the business takes-off,” she says.

While Davinder Malhotra says: “Marketing is the major problem for franchisees. To avoid relocation hassles all training is carried out online for our franchisees and we provide a third party support in case the franchisee is willing to take the services.”

Roll out plans

Currently, Rentoys.in has five centres operating in four cities, including Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Thane and Mumbai. The brand offers the franchise model that can be run from home, distribution centre or store with defined franchisee recruitment process and onsite training for more hassle-free procedures.  Rentoy.in is planning to expand its presence pan-India targeting tier-I and II cities with immediate push.  The franchisees of the brand will require to invest  Rs 50,000 along with an area of 100-150 sq ft for online stores and 250+ sq ft for offline stores.

Rent Me Toy is operational at eight franchise stores. Davinder feels that the brand's franchise model is a success when the overhead costs are minimal. The brand is targeting metros, tier I and II cities only. Rent Me Toy requires 400 sq ft of commercial/residential area. The owner should know how to browse the net and be capable of investing Rs 3 lakh. Besides, he should be persistent in his efforts to make the venture a success.

However, Air Buddies has two formats: a small-sized toy library for which an investment Rs 1.2-3.5 lakh is required along with an area of 100 sq ft and the large format requires Rs 6-7 lakh as an investment along with an area of 100sq ft or more from the franchisees.

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