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In 1992 as young children, Viral and Avani Modi made the brave move with their parents across the Atlantic relocating from Gujrat to New Jersey. Like most immigrants, their parents had their hands full, but ensured that their children never felt too far away from India. The siblings grew up visiting the temple, celebrating Indian festivals, eating home-cooked Gujarati meals, and watching Chitrahaar on Doordarshan…
The Birth of an Enterprise
Fast forward three decades or so, and Avani and Viral, now parents themselves, are grateful to their parents for firmly rooting them in Indian culture and heritage. Concertedly, they have decided to do the same for their own first-generation Indian-American children. It all started when Viral became a dad and wanted to buy his beloved baby daughter a culturally meaningful present. But hard as he tried, he couldn’t find the perfect gift! And so, three years ago, on the heels of a global pandemic, Modi Toys was born.
Toys & Books that Spark Curiosity
Still a toddler, Modi Toys is well on its way to becoming a notable one-stop shop for children’s toys and books that can pique curiosity about Hindu mythology in little ones. From a series of illustrated children’s books and a range of customizable Hindu deity plush toys that chant mantras to greeting cards, it’s incredible that Modi Toys differentiates itself as a pioneer in creating a line of mantra chanting customizable stuffies!
Hindu Mythology a Click Away
Why didn’t anyone come up with this earlier? Was my first reaction. As I think back to when my boys were younger, it was harried trips to the Indian store or the annual trip to India from where I would gather and cart back a decent posy of Indian toys and books to help keep their Indian roots alive. Not to mention, it was Pandora or yours truly singing the Gayatri Mantra to them at bedtime!
During my chat with Avani, the co-founder rather humbly and rightly agreed that while Modi Toys didn’t re-invent the wheel in any way, the company simply made an aspect of Indian culture accessible. Might I add, rather ingeniously! And I firmly believe that a cute little baby Ganesha, Hanuman or Krishna stuffed toy, will still bring joy to my 10 and 7-year-old, as it will to me as a parent or even to grandparents who so lovingly interact with their grandkids!
Available primarily online through its website and some other third-party avenues like Amazon, each toy is washable, battery fitted, and plays mantras respective to the deity it represents. That too sung by child artists based in India. It’s such a fun and engaging way to introduce kids to certain aspects of Indian culture and religion. And all just a few clicks away!
A Cultural and Community Resource
The Modi duo has further successfully transformed their website from being just a point-of-sale to a rich and interactive learning resource. Complete with a list of mantras, educational videos, and a robust blog with several interesting ‘How tos’ and DIY crafts ideas useful to the Indian diaspora. It’s a portal that also engages and brings the community together through promos and contests.
Keeping it Fresh
The company is young and growing thanks to the hard-working sibs who’re constantly thinking of new ideas to expand their line of offerings. Their “Chief Inspiration Officers”, a.k.a. their kids, forever provide fodder for thought as they grow and evolve. Avani has been busy penning children’s books that introduce kids to Hindu mythology through stories like “The Curious Case of Krishna” and others. Modi Toys also just launched its latest plush toys collection – Saraswati Devi, and an A-Z book on 26 South Asian Desi Devis is due to roll out in Spring 2022.
Notably, Modi Toys also supports a variety of charitable organizations serving children and the South Asian community. Their Diwali Bundle, for instance, includes four plush mantra singing minis (Hanuman, Krishna, Ganesha, and Saraswati), candles, mithai, and a greeting card that supports South Asian women-owned businesses. Modi Mentorship also offers mentorship programs to young entrepreneurs interested in starting or scaling their businesses.
Busy as Bees
This isn’t purely a story about an Indian immigrant brother and sister’s entrepreneurial journey. It’s about a simple yearning to fill a cultural void felt by numerous parents like Avani and Viral within the Indian diaspora. It’s apparent that Modi Toys fills that important void. We all hope for our first (or even second) generation Indian-American children to be well rooted in Indian culture and Modi Toys is a meaningful endeavor in that direction.
Navratras, Dusshera, and Diwali have kept the Modi siblings rather busy! Their small team is hard at work, like Santa’s elves packing and shipping their culturally meaningful merch all over the country bringing joy to children and adults.
Nidhi Kirpal Jayadevan’s pre-kids life was dedicated to the complex field of Communication Sciences. After choosing to be a full-time mother, reading and playing with her high-energy boys has been a fascinating journey. It has (re)kindled in her a sense of wonder in all things small. She constantly sees the world through little eyes, applying simple learnings to deepen life’s meaning for herself and her family.