VIJAYAWADA: Tiding yourself over these uncertain times is no child’s play. Ask the toy-makers of Kondapalli. They lost their livelihood to the lockdown, and now can’t even get raw materials to return to work.
“We didn’t get any business for the past three months as our shops were shut. We got to open them from June 8, but haven’t seen a single customer since. Perhaps people are scared to come out. Perhaps they think it’s not safe to buy wooden toys.
Now, we can’t even make new ones,” laments Shankar, who has been making the famous wooden Kondapalli toys for two decades. The nearly-200 craftsmen families of Kondapalli, about 25 km from Vijayawada, have been in the business for generations, but this challenge is unprecedented. “Since the lockdown was imposed, we faced losses of Rs 10,000-15,000 per month,” says another craftsman Durga Prasad.
Online portals had been placing bulk orders ever since Kondapalli toys got a GI tag, but that luck too seems to have run out. “It used to be a good source of income, and our craft got recognition abroad as well. But online portals aren’t approaching us anymore. They say toys are not essential goods and can’t be sold now,” says 70-year-old Nageswara Rao, who has been making the famous toys since 1962.
Kondapalli toy makers bear brunt of lockdown
He incurred a loss of about Rs 90,000 in the past three months. “Usually, Indians who live abroad come to visit their families in these months. But due to the lockdown, we lost even that group of customers,” he adds.
The craftsmen highlight that the State government has not helped them secure working capital. “We somehow managed to survive on savings during the lockdown. But now, we started paying for raw material, and are running out of money as we still aren’t getting any business,” laments Shankar, adding that the community is hoping for financial aid from the government.
As for the way forward, the craftsmen pin their hopes on Dasara. “It’s our only chance to revive our business. Generally, we get a good number of orders during the festival as people put up Bommala Koluvu as per the tradition. This time though, business definitely won’t be as good as previous years as people’s purchasing power has reduced due to the lockdown, and they are only buying essential supplies. Only a few can afford to buy toys in such trying times,” laments Nageswara Rao.