Six years ago, in 2012, the world pronounced American photo products company Eastman Kodak dead. “Death of an American Icon”, “What Killed Kodak?”, “The last Kodak moment” the headlines read. The 130-year-old household name, Kodak, they said, was no more.

At a given point of time, “every person on this planet owned at least one Kodak product”, Jamil Abu-Wardeh insists. Abu-Wardeh is the vice-president of brand licensing partnerships and innovations at Eastman Kodak. “It wasn’t that long ago, and India was a significant part of the Kodak universe,” he adds.

Established in 1888, Kodak sold cameras, film rolls and then, colour films. In 1975, Kodak invented the first digital camera. But all this went away in 2012-13. Every shred of consumer business including digital cameras, video cameras, consumer films and paper, was either sold or shut.

Digital cameras and smartphones pushed Kodak out of the market, forcing it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. Back in India, there was no news on Eastman Kodak’s local subsidiary, Kodak India Private Limited, either.

Eastman Kodak soon resurfaced, though. Not with cameras and films, but printers and ink. But its legacy couldn’t sustain it. Revenue shrank, as did the profits.

Today, Kodak’s revenue is less than what its profits were in the late 1990s. Where Kodak touched $16 billion in revenue in 1996, the company merely earned $1.5 billion in the year ended December 2017.

In India, Kodak resurfaced in 2016. In the interim, the Indian offshoot, like its parent, had moved away from consumer business, and over the years, lost touch with the masses, and consequently, the media. Currently, Kodak India is an enterprise solution business, dealing in printing and packaging.

And it wants to bridge the gap. You see, Kodak wants the Indian consumer back.

It started with a rather uncharacteristic but surprisingly successful venture into televisions. In a highly competitive market dominated by the likes of Samsung, LG, Sony and Micromax, as noted by market research firm Euromonitor, Kodak claims it has managed to capture a commendable 3% market share.

We know that Kodak, as a brand, has a pull. What has been missing from the portfolio is the consumer touch.

A Kodak India executive

Emboldened by this success, the company has announced a slew of products in India. In the last six months alone, they’ve unveiled plans for washing machines, music speakers, photography accessories and films.

There’s more Kodak wants to sell. It wants to enter tough markets like smartphones. And it has no plans of letting go of its iconic cameras either. All of these, in Kodak-branded stores.

Internationally, too, Kodak is trying its hand in diverse markets.

AUTHOR

Harveen Ahluwalia

In her last assignment, Harveen was at Mint, the business daily published by HT Media. At Mint, where she spent about two years, she wrote stories on retail, food and the media business. Harveen is a B.Com (H) graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. She has a diploma in journalism from the Times School of Journalism. Like many folks at The Ken, Harveen talks and tweets a lot. When she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to sketch and doodle. She can be reached at harveen at the-ken dot com.

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