Once bankrupt, venerable film company Kodak snaps back on digital front.
Text Germaine Cheong Photography Winston Chuang Art direction Denise Rei Low Chair d.R.D.P. By Ceccotti Collezioni Available at Asiatique collections
Four years ago, things were looking very bleak for Kodak. The 124-year-old company filed for bankruptcy as it had failed to keep up with digital photography. Ironically, it had invented the world’s first digital camera in 1975 but didn’t capitalise on it, for fear of the new technology hurting its lucrative film business. That obviously backfired.
There is no way to fend off disruption from external sources, says Eric-Yves Mahe, president of software and solutions for Kodak. The 53-year-old Frenchman, who joined Kodak two years ago, says: “I don’t think you can protect yourself against disruption. Anybody who tries to build a bulletproof business will potentially run into trouble at some point. Technology is moving extremely fast.”’
Since emerging from bankruptcy in 2013, Kodak has spun off its consumer businesses and focused largely on inventing high-tech equipment for printing newspapers, on packaging and the like, and selling directly to businesses.
Another area that Kodak is banking on is innovation – what it was originally known for. Three months ago, Kodak launched mobile app Kodakit, which is designed to be a one-stop shop for businesses and consumers to search for, book and pay photographers, and receive images. Consumers usually rely on recommendation or search via forums and websites like Clubsnap and Photoshelter, but the infrastructure is not as comprehensive as that offered by Kodakit. Mahe, who’s been based in Singapore for the past nine years, says that over 3,000 people have downloaded the app that features more than 200 photographers. Kodak takes a 20 per cent cut of the photographer’s rate. While the app is currently available only in Singapore, there are plans to launch it in 148 cities over the next few months.
Mahe says: “Many people still associate Kodak with memories and milestone moments – the Kodak moment. They remember sending film rolls in yellow envelopes for processing and getting photographs back. There is still a lot of trust in the brand.
“So I wondered if we could go back to our roots but come back with new technologies and potential opportunities to disrupt existing markets. Businesses are meant to be disrupted. Since you know you are going to be disrupted, you should always be ahead of time and try to disrupt your own business, or someone else will.”