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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Grassroots innovator from Andhra Pradesh revives dying art of wooden toys

C.V. Raju, a grassroots innovator from Andhra Pradesh, is preserving the traditional method of making ‘Etikoppaka’ toys, a proud heritage rooted in his village, by making vegetative dyes and developing technologies for increasing the shelf life of the dyes for the wooden toys.

This traditional method of making wooden toys using non-toxic paints and natural dyes, an identity that defined the craft community of the Etikoppaka village near Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, was otherwise a dying art.

Raju explored plant sources and the lead-free dyes in their roots, barks, stems, leaves, fruits, seeds etc. His experiments resulted in natural dye concentrates over wide-ranging colours, including royal red and Indigo.

Raju started a co-operative association of the artisans called “Padmavati Associates” so that the innovative colours reach the right markets. He walked through a strategy of strengthening the local traditions of making vegetative dyes, developing new tools, techniques and methods for increasing the shelf life of the dyes. Over a period of time, the supply of many herbal dyes started increasing, making things easier for the artisans.

He has developed a variety of contemporary toys for which the market is gradually emerging in Bharat and abroad, a release from the Ministry of Science and Technology said.

National Innovation Foundation (NIF), India, an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, has supported Raju in his efforts to be more ‘vocal for local’ in various ways like financial support through Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF) to satisfy working capital needs, setting up of a community lab at the premises of innovator which could facilitate in-situ product improvements, research and development; validating the herbal nature of the toys and facilitating commercialization through technology transfer to other enterprises and dissemination and diffusion activities across the country.

To strengthen their relevance, the portfolio of innovative products has been made highly rich, and there are a plethora of toy shapes that kids like most such as teethers, telephone, car, motorbike, cooking set, bowling game, go-go, ducks, whistle bird, cubby stack, turtle, train coach, dolls, tic-tac-toe etc.

In addition to the toys, women accessories such as bangles, ear drops, earrings, hair clips, hairpins; puja items such as candle and incense stick stand, bells; household products like small bowls, pots, toothpick holder; stationery items like pen with stand, pencil caps, sharpener, key chains etc. contribute to the diversity of the overall portfolio.

Etikoppaka toys are well-rounded and made using natural dye colours. This makes them safe even for kids. Keeping this in mind, Raju remains glued to the conventional art form.

Moreover, he engaged his fellow artisans and also provided them with an employment opportunity locally in the same village, the release said.

For his work on Etikoppaka toys that is bringing back the lost glory of local toys, Raju has been praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his 68th ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme.

Raju was conferred with NIF’s second Biennial National Grassroots Innovation and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge Award by former President APJ Abdul Kalam. In the year 2018, he was invited to be part of the fifth batch of the ‘Innovation Scholar-In-Residence’ programme organized by the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

He has also participated in the annual Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FINE), the biggest platform for grassroots innovators to showcase the merit of their innovations, organized by NIF and DST under the aegis of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to Hindu-Post styel-guide.)

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