Spielwarenmesse: Interview with Sanjay Luthra of Mattel: Europe leads the way

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Interview with Sanjay Luthra of Mattel: Europe leads the way

from Peter Thomas

Sanjay Luthra has been Mattel's Managing Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) since 2018. On top of that, he took the chair of the Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) board in March 2019. Born in India and a resident of London, the manager has been working for Mattel since 2003. He discussed the latest trends, the future for Mattel, and the industry with Spirit of Play during the Spielwarenmesse 2020. 


Spielwarenmesse®: Mr Luthra, Mattel celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Is that a reason to celebrate or cause to look to the future with uncertainty?

Portrait of Sanya Luthra, Managing Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa of Mattel
Sanya Luthra, Managing Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Mattel

Sanjay Luthra: The anniversary marks an important milestone for us. After all, here at Mattel we are extremely proud of our company's heritage. But such tradition comes with a lot of responsibility for the future. As a market leader in the toy industry, it is Mattel's mission to inspire the next generation through play – even in a world that is becoming increasingly digital and technology-centric.

What are the most exciting products that Mattel brought along to the Spielwarenmesse®?

S. L.: We are showcasing plenty of exciting new products in Nuremberg in 2020 which our customers are giving us great feedback. A few highlights to point out include Barbie Color Reveal, Barbie Fashionistas and the sustainable building blocks from the Mega Bloks First Builders line made of bio-based resin.

What makes these new products so special?

S. L.: They embody important trends in the industry: Barbie Colour reveal is a great innovation, Fashionistas represent diversity. The building blocks for pre-school kids made of natural materials specifically target sustainability, which is a huge trend nowadays. I consider supporting STEM learning in a playful manner and the topic of inclusion similarly important.

Barbie, Mattel
Barbie, Mattel

How important are these trends for the sales territory that you oversee? After all, that includes not only the whole of Europe, but also the Middle East and Africa.

S. L.: In Europe particularly, we see markets respond strongly to these pressing questions. One exciting aspect for us is that the individual countries differ noticeably as regional markets. These cultural differences are very important reasons for Mattel to present itself as a regional brand that is close at hand, and to act as one global unit. It is crucial that customers Feel understood and supported.

What were the most important goals that you achieved over the past 18 months in your current position at Mattel?

S. L.: At the very top of my list was to streamline the organisation to the outside. This means that we became more customer focused, building a intensive dialogue with our trade partners, but also with licensors. Especially for the retailers, it is extremely important against the background of fast change that we hear what they have to say, that we understand them and that together we find solutions to strengthen their respective business model.

Like Mattel's B2B platform for example?

S. L.: Precisely. This platform is a particularly important step amongst many. It provides the latest information to retailers using a broad range of media and offers almost seamless ordering processes. This is important for smaller retailers who may not always have a e-commerce platform.

Group Photo Mattel and representatives of Spielwarenmesse eG
Mattel and representatives of Spielwarenmesse eG at the Spielwarenmesse® 2020

In March 2019 you became the Chairman of the Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) board. What are your most important topics there?

S. L.: The manufacturers that are involved in the TIE campaign advocate that all children have the right to play safely. They also support fair conditions within the industry. Our leading topics therefore include sustainability, empowerment and future skills. We even chose these three categories for the Play for Change Awards, an accolade with Toy Industries of Europe will debut this year. These awards will be presented in September 2020 and will distinguish manufacturers and initiatives that focus in an inspiring and constructive manner on questions that relate to the environment, to society, as well as education.

What response are you hoping to attract for this in Europe?

S. L.: At Mattel it is our mission to really understand customers. That is why I know that these topics play a crucial role in Europe. You could even say that Europe leads the way in this field.

Why is the Spielwarenmesse® in Nuremberg the right place for you to launch these awards?

S. L.: This trade fair is quite simply the most relevant event worldwide in our entire industry. Nowhere else is it possible to achieve such a significant interaction between the companies of our industry. This applies within Mattel as well: We come together here and the trade fair offers an ideal forum for the entire team. That, too, is important. There is no other event in the world where this many Mattel employees from so many different countries come together. And that is why I am such a great fan of the Spielwarenmesse.


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Author of this article:

Peter Thomas, Journalist

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