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Feature: Behind the scenes at Centy Toys

 Scale model collectors are a finicky bunch. Call their cars toys and they get all worked up, but show them an actual plastic Centy toy and they all want one in their collection. I know this because every single collector at the Autocar India office who swear by their die-cast metal collection made a beeline for the ‘Queen 70’s’, a scale replica of the Padmini from Centy. It’s not hard to understand why – it’s built of plastic, but the detailing on the car is fantastic, right down to the chrome bumper and printed number plates. There’s even tiny wipers on the windscreen and an instrument binnacle on the dash. 

Besides the Padmini, other Centy models have also found shelf space with collectors. Of course, part of this is down to the fact that there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to international scale models, but if you are looking for Indian-centric miniature vehicles, homegrown brand Centy Toys is really the only option. The Delhi-based company has sold over 43 million units since it began in 1990. So we really had to go and see for ourselves how and where these little beauties are made.  

Centy Toys manufacuring process

The factory is situated at Bawana near New Delhi and at first glance, comes off as a cottage-scale industry setup. Now, the Indian government has laid out stringent testing procedures and quality standards for toys under the Bureau of Indian Standards and is very firm on their implementation, especially to keep out a flood of poorly built Chinese toys. As such, look closer and you’ll see that the brand’s assembly is controlled very carefully with a lot of testing involved. (More details in the box.) 

The tests are essential to not only meet local norms but the certification obtained also helps the company sell its products in international markets without facing safety-related legal hurdles. It’s quite an eye-opener to see the amount of tests these toys go through. “These toys have been through more safety tests than their real-life counterparts,” quips Sarabjeet Singh, CEO of Centy Toys.

And while that may not be the gospel truth, there’s a lot going on. The company has around 150 employees, which includes 70 women, and the workmanship is fantastic; each worker dotes over his or her job and you can see they aren’t simply slapping things together but building with care and joy. There’s a lot of smiles all around – I guess being around toys all day will do wonders for your disposition. 

Interestingly, much like a real-life automotive manufacturer, Centy Toys has set up its own supplier park around the Bawana facility. Companies that supply raw material granules and other products are located close to the main facility, and that helps in quicker procurement and faster production. While most of the design parts are unique to each model, the wheels and the pull-back mechanisms are the same, which is similar to the platform and component sharing in a real automobile.

Singh says Centy Toys is slowly increasing its footprint in markets like Australia and Canada, and the brand is cleverly targeting sales in overseas Indian stores, cashing in on the sentiment the diaspora has for seeing vehicles from back home. Additionally, the company is in the process of setting up a second, much bigger unit in Khushkhera in Rajasthan that will be operational by June this year.  

During the time of our visit, the team was busy putting together unit after unit of the popular ‘Queen 70’s’. Given their finish and level of detail, these have been quite the rage online with collectors and enthusiasts, and yes, I gladly took back a few for my colleagues too.