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Fidget spinners Fad, toy therapy?

The humble fidget spinner now boasts many avatars, finds Yogesh Pawar

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Fidget spinners Fad, toy therapy?
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What is palm sized, cute and has spun its way into the hearts of millions of children, adolescents and millennials alike? After making rare appearances in India toward the beginning of 2016, the fidget spinner, a toy with a central ball-bearing in the middle multi-armed horizontal structure, which spins with a small push, has gone on to become quite the rage.

While the jury is still out on whether Catherine Hettinger or Scott McCoskery invented this toy, many like Rahul Shashikant Shah, proprietor of Mangalam Industries, one of the largest fidget spinner sellers in India insists toys/gadgets of a similar kind were seen even in early 1990. "Since even the most basic ones cost Rs 8,000 to 9,000 plus then, it never picked up until now," says Shah who came across a Forbes article about fidget spinners by James Plafke in December 2016. "It said fidget spinners could help people stuck in monotonous desk jobs for hours by giving them a variant activity, thus refreshing them enough to go back and bring enhanced energy and productivity to their work. In fact the article recommended one fidget spinner on every desk."

Within months of reading the article, he found Amazon put up fidget spinners for sale on their site. "These were priced around Rs 1,200 and I felt tempted to buy three pieces. I used two to research on mechanics and marketing, while one I gave to my hyperactive 5-year-old son Parvasha. And I was amazed this reduced his propensity to scribble on walls and break things." He then decided to sell fidget spinners himself. "What seemed like a good idea didn't take off initially because of poor awareness," he says. "Yet whenever I showed the spinner to someone, they would react with disbelief and shrug shoulders, but the moment they held one, they were fascinated, kept playing even asking to keep it for themselves. I was convinced I was onto something big but the breakthrough took a while."

A tie-up with the brand Monginis that wanted to give away fidget spinners complimentary to patrons who bought one-kg designer cakes became the breakthrough. "That followed by a tie-up with brands like MI mobiles for corporate events then led to a surge in demand helped by the fact that this was the vacation season for schools," says Shah who estimates that over 15 lakh pieces have been sold in India by wholesalers based out of Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. "But that initial bump in sales has seen a slump now and we are getting to real figures. The millennials are buying better quality spinners than the cheap variants, which are short-lived plastic toys which cost Rs 15 to 20." Today a good fidget spinner can cost between Rs 150 to 800 depending on the quality (45 second spinner to 3 minute ones) and make (copper, brass, stainless steel or titanium).

Shah says he is not at liberty to take names but speaks of custom-made gold, silver and even platinum fidget spinners becoming popular among the upper class. "People are spending even in the excess of Rs 1.5-2 lakh for diamond studded ones."

But how does this fidget spinner work on the mind? Psychiatrist and author Dr Rajendra Barve says this is related to the trance/hypnotic effect that the circular movement brings. "This relieves stress and anxiety as your brain is involved in a manner, which comforts you from stress. The act of concentrating on the revolving motion takes away from the other thoughts weighing you down," he explains. "Whether it is rotating prayer wheels in Buddhist shrines, spiral patterns used for hypnotherapy, whirling Sufi dervishes or toys like tops or paper fans, which move with the air, the circular movement has always been linked to a changed state of mind. One cannot rule out that fidget spinners work on the same principle."

According to Dr Barve, "Fidget spinners work as a stress buster for millennials because it helps the person playing, focus on one point or the piece of work they are currently working on. It can particularly help multitaskers find their point of concentration. This is definitely better than boredom-induced nail-biting, desk or foot-tapping and pen-clicking. Fidget spinners are the latest to join the ranks of toys like stress balls and find an outlet for nervous or bored energy."

Are your hands fidgeting to get one already?

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