Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Funskool - Welcome to the World of Toys !

Brand : Funskool
Company: MRF

Brand Count: 161

Funskool is the market leader in the Indian organised toys market. Pioneer in marketing branded toys, Funskool was launched in 1988 created a new beginning of high quality toys segment in the highly fragmented industry.

Indian Toy industry is huge. Some reports estimate the size of the market to be around Rs 2500 crore ( some say it is Rs 1000 crore). The conflicting market size estimates is an ample proof that the market is highly unorganised. The organised branded toys segment accounts for only Rs 500 crore. Rest of the market is dominated by unbranded toys.
Although the market for Toys is huge, the market is dominated by cheap imports from China.50% of the market is ruled by cheap imports. The China factor is the single most danger that the Indian toy industry face.

Funskool created in 1987 is a joint venture between the World's largest toy manufacturer Hasbro and the Indian tyre major MRF. The brand ushered in an era of toys with educational value and also healthy ( safe). Funskool has since then evolved into a complete toy manufacturer that also exports toys to other markets.
The Indian toy industry can be divided into
a. Board games
b.Building Blocks
c. Dolls & soft toys
d.Electronic toys
While Funskool leads in board game segment, the players like Mattel and Lego leads in the building blocks and dolls segment. Mattel with its Barbie rules the premium end of the Dolls segment. Soft toys is another segment that is growing fast and gaining popularity. Hanung Toys is a major player in this segment.Funskool have a marketshare of around 25% in the branded segment.

Funskool as a brand faces lot of issues in this market. The issues are more of environmental in nature rather than issues of the brand.
The primary issue is the dominance of unbranded cheap toys that is available in the market. The market is price sensitive and hence the branded players face an issue of showing value for the premium paid by the customers. This together with cheap imports made the life difficult for brands like Funskool.
The reason why people go after cheap toys is the lack of awareness about the hazards of using cheap low quality toys. In India Toys are seldom viewed as a development tool. According to Indian consumer, Toys serve the entertainment need of the kids and to the parents it is an easy way to get relief from Pestering kids. While in more developed countries, parents look for educational or developmental value in toys. This makes the category more price sensitive.

Then comes the lack of awareness of parents about the safety of low priced cheap quality products. Although Funskool and other branded toy marketers have run commericials claiming that their toys to be more safe, majority of the consumers have not bought that idea. The main factor is that there has not been too many issues that have arisen because of the use of local toys. We Indians used to make toys out of nature like toys from coconut leaves, wood etc. Hence to teach the Indians sophistication is a difficult task.

Then there is the issue of creative plagiarism or piracy. The rules regarding copying and reproducing toys are not in place or not executed ( copy right issues ). Thus the branded players are not able to sustain the differentiation based on characters or range. Everything can be replicated in this market without much fuss.

Toys are products with shorter lifecycle. A model will survive in the market for 1-3 years. Hence the challenge for the marketer is to create newer toys frequently. Easier said than done, creating newer toys is a challenging task. In the buying process of toys, the marketer has to consider 3 individual minds and 3 different attitudes. While the child is the consumer, the mother acts as the executor of the order and the father controls the purse strings.

Funskool was perfect in creating and marketing new games and toys. The brand is churning out 70-80 new varieties every year. Positioned on the platform of safety, variety and education, the brand already have a huge equity in the Indian market. The major competitor for Funskool is Mattel. Mattel has its range of Fisher Price brand of toys taking on the Funskool range. Fisher Price is a premium brand in the market and has a huge range of toys and from my personal observation has an edge in the shelf space at shops.I have a feeling that the brand is resting on its laurels recently interms of promotions.Fisher Price also is catching the consumers young by below the line promotions involving young mothers.

While Mattel is ruling the dolls market, Funskool is competing with Barbie using its Sandy range of dolls.
Funskool have been constantly tracking the trends in the toys market. The brand has an agreement with Disney to market cartoon based toys. Cartoon characters became popular with the rising popularity of kids channels. Funskool effectively captured the trend of Bayblade by launching it at an affordable price. Other innovations include Playdoh which is non toxic syntehtic dough which can be used to make different shapes and sizes.

The challenge for Funskool is to encourage the Indian consumers to look at toys at a broader perspective than just an entertainment. Funskool cannot rest now since the market is hotting up with all the players competing for their share of the pie.Products like Playdoh and Sindy needs lot of promotions because those brands have immense potential.