Raahil Chopra
Mar 18, 2021

Board games, toys helped create fond memories during the stressful pandemic: Lalit Parmar, Hasbro

Hasbro India's commercial director speaks with Campaign India about Government initiatives to help the toy industry, growth of board games during the pandemic, sustainability, and more...

Lalit Parmar
Lalit Parmar
Hasbro is celebrating World Monopoly Day (held worldwide on 19 March), with a slew of initiatives. In India, the brand is looking to target Hindi-speaking audiences through the card version of the game – Monopoly Deal Hindi.
 
 
Globally, Hasbro has rolled out ‘The Community Chest Challenge’, looking at co-creation to engage with fans of the board game by asking them to send their suggestions for the game.
 
We caught up with Lalit Parmar, commercial director, Hasbro India, to learn more about these initiatives, the growth of board games during the pandemic, reducing plastic, competition with imported games, and more.
 
Edited excerpts:
 
The perception is that the pandemic has seen the rise of board games in households. Did Hasbro see an increase in its sales? 
 
Yes. Across the world, we have seen an uptake on how families have reacted to the pandemic and these tough times.
 
It’s been a total behavioural change for everyone. The world has come together and no one was prepared. Parents are working from home and children have online classes at home. In the beginning, there was a lot of stress as to how one could cope with these changes. 
 
It gave a legitimate outlet for everyone to connect back physically. Games create memories about being together and these are cherished for years to come. This was a time people won’t want to remember, but toys and games have helped create some fond memories during these tough times.
 
Certain categories of toys and games saw a rise in sales, for sure, with board games, in particular, seeing growth in consumer purchase and acceptance across the world.  
 
Another trend that emerged during the pandemic was the growth of online gaming. Ludo, in particular, comes to mind. Did Hasbro also have a surge in online gaming?
 
Parents have accepted that screen time is here to stay for their children. I take the example of myself as a parent. When my daughters were going to school, their screen time was limited to watching some TV or browsing/playing games on the mobile or tab. But, nowadays, classes are happening online. So, children are fixed to the digital ecosystem right from a young age. Their knowledge about the entire eco-system has also evolved very fast. Their evolution on the digital journey is far ahead of us too.
 
So, they are subjected to digital games. But, these games give an isolated gaming experience. You could be playing games that have other family members, too, on the same platform at the same time, but you’re not socially connected unless it’s console gaming where you’re playing together.
 
However, technology is not limited to just playing online. We are using technology within our digital games. Monopoly used to be all cash. The trend of using cash has now changed and the game has kept up to it with a cashless electronic version, so all transactions are happening digitally. Children are seeing this happen with their parents using credit cards or digital payments, and they are kept up to speed.
 
We also have interactive dolls under the ‘Baby Alive’ brand. There are electronics, digital and robotics used. The doll comes as an infant and grows while children are playing and growing with it. So, we are using technology to the maximum.
 
Further, we have more than enough digital brands too under our portfolio. We are present on mobile app stores and consoles. Our objective is to have a larger share of life when it comes to our consumers, irrespective of whether it’s digital gaming, apparel, music, content, animation, theatrical content. We want to be relevant to our consumers.
 
Imported toys are supposedly dominating the market in India. Did India-made toys see any improvement in their growth in recent months? Are there any measures taken by the Government to tap the USD 1.5 billion market?
 
Yes, as of now, a lot of imports are coming in for sure. The industry has evolved over time. As an organisation, we are fully committed to supporting ‘Make in India’, Hasbro is currently the number one exporter of toys from India.
 
There’s a lot of technical know-how required in making a toy – so there’s a backend value chain creation that has seen an increase in employment that has been supported by the company. We are leveraging India as a manufacturing hub. It is a manpower-intensive industry and having more production in India will lead to better employment.
 
The Government just hosted the first-ever India Toy Fair in February and Hasbro was a key partner. It was inaugurated by PM Modi. Discussions were around the self-reliance of India to grow the toy industry and how to grow our global presence as well.     
 
What are the challenges in the toy industry currently?
 
One of the key challenges is getting toys and games as a core part of the entire growing-up phase of the kids. Historically, if you see toys and games have been usually treated as opportunities around gifting, whether it’s as a birthday present, rewarding one for doing well during exams, etc. Globally, we see toys and games to be an integral part of the growing up of children. It brings so many benefits. You can drive creativity and imagination. A board game is a great equaliser – everyone in the family is at the same level on the table, no matter what age group. You are learning life skills during the same by trading, transacting, etc.
 
This plays an important part in the development of the child and that’s what is required in India for consumers to understand. It’s the responsibility of brands like us to drive the narrative about the value of playing. It’s not about just learning from books for children. The Government of India, through its latest education policy, is also talking about toy-based pedagogy approaches as it wants to integrate toys as a key avenue to drive learning and development within children.
 
We are going in the right direction, but it will take time to get there.       
 
Sustainability is being spoken about across the advertising and marketing industry. Are toy manufacturers taking sustainability seriously in terms of their packaging? 
 
A lot of the packaging material is plastic and we have taken the onus to remove that by the end of 2022. I think that’s a great global initiative that will reduce our exposure to plastic in our packaging.
 
Another initiative we have rolled out globally but is yet to launch in India is a toy recycling program. We have started this with the US and other developed markets with tie-ups with companies that can recycle toys. This recycling model is going to have a major impact on reducing carbon emissions. We estimate that by eliminating plastic from our packaging, we will save the equivalent of emissions of around 85,000 barrels of oil by 2022. That’s a big number.
 
When was World Monopoly Day first celebrated? What’s different this year?
 
On 19 March 1935, Parker Brothers, which was a gaming brand which has been acquired by Hasbro, acquired the rights for the game from the creator Charles Darrow. This is the 86th year of the brand.
 
We wanted to celebrate the 85th birthday in a bigger way but weren’t able to (because of the pandemic).
 
This year we rolled out The Community Chest Challenge, and we are inviting fans to help change the game, by asking them to determine the new Community Chest cards by voting online. This opened on 18 March and is open till 9 April. The mantra is co-creation. We know fans love to have a say in the game they’ve grown up playing. Consumer participation and including their point-of-view also helps the brand stay relevant and consistent.
 
Monopoly fans are very passionate about the brand and love being involved in such initiatives. 
 
We are also supporting the Government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative by coming out with our first vernacular version of Monopoly Deal. It’s end-to-end Hindi, made in India and spread in India. We are leveraging local talent, manufacturing and it’s exciting to bring this global brand in a local version. 
 
 
This is our initiative to give Hindi-speaking consumers, who know about the game, a chance to now play it. It’s completely localised – it has Indian cities being traded and the action cards are in Hindi too.
 
Source:
Campaign India

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