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Niche Business

Published on: Nov. 3, 2020, 1:06 a.m.
Toyz R him
  • Mehndiratta manufactures 1.5 million toys a year at his four factories

By Sekhar Seshan. Consulting Editor, Business India

When he was just 14 years old, Sanjay Mehndiratta went to work at a cloth mill in Delhi because he wanted to shoulder the responsibility to help his father support the family. Two weeks later, he found another job – at a dry fruit shop in the capital’s wholesale dry fruit market, Khari Baoli, then moved on to a toy shops

“While I was working there, my sister’s marriage was fixed in 1985,” says Mehndiratta, now 50. “I requested the shop owner for a loan of Rs10,000 but he refused to give it. I left the job on the very next day.” Caught by surprise, the man went to the teenager’s home and offered him an advance of Rs20,000 if he would go back to work.

It was then that he decided that he would never do another job in his life, though his father tried to persuade him to go back to the shop for another year. “My father said he didn’t have any money to support my business, as he had spent all his savings on the wedding,” he recalls. “I borrowed Rs500 from a friend. I knew about the toy trade and didn’t think much about it – but my first aim was to earn at least as much as my salary of Rs2,200, so I decided to set up my own toy shop.”

In the next two years, he managed to save some money and bought a shop, then got a bank loan of Rs25,000 to start a manufacturing unit at Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, ideally located near Delhi. “I also found the working atmosphere and infrastructure there to be very good, and it was within my means to buy,” he explains. Today, having set up three more plants – in Aurangabad, Chennai and Hyderabad – Mehndiratta, founder-chairman of what he has named Toy Zone Impex, claims that it is the largest in the Indian MSME sector. The manufacturing units have the latest plant and machinery, coupled with in-house R&D and tool-room facilities in Bhiwadi.

Toys of various kinds

Though he is chary of disclosing the turnover of the Toy Zone group of partnership and private limited companies, he says it makes 1.5 million toys of various kinds, offering the most competitive prices and the desired quality to buyers around the globe. These prices, listed in his brochure, average about Rs1,500-3,000, putting total sales at around Rs300 crore.

  • The entrepreneur believes that the Indian toy industry can rise to answer the prime minister’s call to avoid importing Chinese toys and manufacture them. After all, he points out, he has been doing it himself for nearly two decades

Mehndiratta believes in providing employment to specially-enabled and old people as well as prisoners. For the first category, he explains: “My two sons have hearing and speaking impairment since birth and both are working very well in their own business. The sharpness of their minds is more than one-and-a-half times that of normal persons. I believe they have god-gifted superpowers.”

Senior citizens, he feels, have rich experience but are ignored for one reason or another. Giving them work at their own place will make them feel useful. “We will also get their blessings,” he says. Prisoners, too, are capable of doing a lot of good work and earning money which they can use when they are released. In China, which he visited in 1996, he found that the toy industry employs many prisoners.

The entrepreneur believes that the Indian toy industry can rise to answer the prime minister’s call to avoid importing Chinese toys and manufacture them. After all, he points out, he has been doing it himself for nearly two decades. There is a lot of  incentive, too: India accounts for one in every four children of up to the age of 12 in the world, according to last year’s World Bank data, and the demand for toys is expected to grow at almost 20 per cent a year in the next five years. Local manufacture is only 15 per cent of the Rs3,500-4,500-crore organised toy industry, while China meets 90 per cent of the requirement of imports. “We can do it!” he says.

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