In 2019-20 India’s imports from China were around 14.1%. While the main imports included electronics, pharmaceuticals, engineering goods and auto components, there is one arena where the Chinese industry holds dominance over the Indian market – Toys. More than 80% of toys purchased in India are imported and the majority of them come from China. Currently, India holds a mere 0.015% part of the global toy market. According to a FICCI-KPMG report, our domestic toy market is valued at $1 billion and it holds the potential to double itself by 2025. Another report titled ‘State of play: India’s toy story - Unboxing fun and beyond’ says that India could achieve a 2% share of global exports by the same year.
Vasanth Tamilselvan along with his wife Nishananthini Ramasamy has started Ariro Toys in 2019. Ariro or ‘lullaby’ in Tamil, manufactures eco-friendly and Montessori principle-based toys made by India’s artisans. Vasanth did his Masters in Social Work from the Madras Scholl of Social Work. He previously founded Innovasia Media Solutions before committing to Ariro.
Nishananthini Ramasamy is an Engineer turned Montessori teacher. She graduated from Rajalakshmi Engineering College and later got trained under the Montessori Methods and Philosophies. As a passionate Montessori mother and a child development enthusiast, she was keen to provide the best for her daughter. When the available toys in the Indian market failed her expectation she decided to start Ariro Toys.
About Ariro Toys
Vasanth begins, “Ariro is a D2C brand made for kids from 0 to 3 years.” Nisha continues, “I am a Montessori teacher by profession and was looking for purposeful toys for my daughter. And we were very specific that it needed to be based on Montessori principles. We are also avid travellers and realised that in other countries this trend was quite popular. It was validated worldwide but it lacked behind in India.”
“We found it very difficult to find such toys in the Indian market. So we hired a carpenter and decided to make the toys ourselves. We started figuring out the material to use and found neem wood to be the best fit. After making the products even our friends started liking it, and it is then that we realised that there is a business opportunity with this. So we decided to start with 2 products initially rattle and teethers. After our market research, we established Ariro Toys in 2020.”
Ariro Toys’s USP
Vasanth says, “Our first USP is that our toys are based on Montessori principles. We make toys that are Simple, Purposeful and Eco-friendly. From the designing phase to the execution, we maintain eco-friendliness. During Covid, many people were confined to their home and so we made toys that could be used by kids in their homes. Toys like Pikler Triangle and Jungle Gym, helped kids play independently while the parents could use the uninterrupted time for their own work.”
Nisha adds, “All our toys are handcrafted by which we ensure livelihoods for the artisans. Since Vasanth had previous experience in Social Work, he knew about the toy clusters of India.” Vasanth says, “Currently we are giving regular livelihood to 90 artisans across the country. And the number is growing as we grow.”
Ariro’s Customer Base
Vasanth says, “We have reached 16,000+ orders and have sold 1 lakh plus toys.”
Ariro’s Funds from Shark Tank India
Ariro Toys had received Rs 50 lakhs for 10% equity from Sharks Aman Gupta and Peyush Bansal. Vasanth mentions, “As a startup, we do a lot of things by ourselves. We even have a talent deficit. So this is one area where we are going to spend the funding amaount. We also have a few products that are ready but haven’t launched due to manufacturing constraints. So, new product development and talent acquisition are the two areas where the funds will be utilized.”
Ariro’s Expansion Plans
Vasanth mentions, “Currently it is only a D2C site where 80% of our revenue comes from. We have tied up with Hamleys and are available offline through them. We are also exploring other marketplaces like Amazon, FirstCry and Pepperfry where we have already signed up and are currently going through the onboarding process.”
“The second area we are looking to expand into are preschools. Since the lockdown is over and things are opening up we are receiving many enquiries regarding our products because of Shark Tank. We are also coming up with our own app. With an app, we can maintain touch with our consumers.”
Vasanth explains, “Our customers have never complained about us being overpriced. It was just feedback given by one of the Sharks on Shark Tank India. Our pricing starts from Rs 200 and goes beyond. When compared to plastic made toys, we only have a mere 10% difference in price. The only reason we can afford to make natural products at the competitor’s price is due to the D2C channel. With this, we can distribute without much margin there. As we are growing and doing mass production, our prices will dropdown. We are growing by 9% month on month”
Vasanth explains, “We are running at a Rs 32-33 lakhs monthly revenue rate. We will be closing around Rs 3.7-3.8 crores this financial year. Our revenues started in June 2020.”
Vasanth explains, “We want to maintain the same growth rate. A 9 to 10% growth rate is healthy for any startup. We have shipped around 1 lakh units and have thus made many kids happy. We want to multiply and make many kids happy. We get fulfilled more by making kids happy than by the financial figures.”
(Edited by Priyal Shah)