Thursday, March 20, 2008

It’s a Kodak moment

At the age of 24, George Eastman made plans for a vacation to Santo Domingo. On a suggestion of a co-worker, Eastman bought a photographic outfit with all the paraphernalia of the wet plate days so that he could record the trip. However, Eastman cancelled the trip. The photographic outfit that he described as ‘a packhorse load’ fascinated him instead. Eastman took upon himself the task of making photography a less gruesome and inexpensive affair. Some years later, Kodak was born. The goal was simple, to make photography “as convenient as the pencil,” and that’s what this visionary entrepreneur did. He gave the world a device that had the power to make moments timeless, was easy to use and also easy on the pocket. “You press the button, we do the rest,” Eastman told the world. Just like Ekta Kapoor, Rakesh Roshan and Karan Johar, Eastman too was a believer in the power of the letter ‘K’, which made him incorporate the name ‘Kodak’ and it became one of the most valuable brands globally when it came to imaging and photography. The company set foot on Indian soil in 1931 and in tune with its global mission, has enabled easy imaging solutions to Indians ever since. Today, the company boasts of a portfolio of products, which range from Digital and Film Imaging to Entertainment and Health Imaging. While the slogan changed from what it was to ‘Easy Share’, their logo changed as many as six times. And to find out whether “Kodak moments” have really worked for the company in India, 4Ps B&M met up with Ravi Karamcheti, Managing Director, Kodak India. Since the year 2001, when Ravi joined Kodak, he has handled different profiles at the company. A visionary, and one with in-depth marketing and industry knowledge, Ravi has to his credit – with the help his vast experience gathered from his past stints at Asian Paints and Philips – various strategies to position Kodak as a strong brand for the price sensitive and technology driven Indian market. Says Ravi, “Kodak has always been known for innovation and our prime concern is to provide the best product in terms of technology. If you see our products, they look like mobile phones – very handy, stylish, compact and easy to carry; plus the price is very attractive considering that India is a price sensitive market.”

Taking into consideration this price consciousness, in the year 2001, the technology major launched KB10 cameras, which were most attractively priced at Rs.995 and were aggressively marketed. The result made history. The camera sold one million units in the country, a figure that no other camera had ever achieved. So is this ‘camera-loving’ way how Kodak is going to grow in India? Ravi differs, “Kodak’s goal is to offer complete end-to-end imaging solutions to the consumers. The aim is to provide a complete package or a solution to the customer with the best printing quality and offer 100% satisfaction to the customer, which means providing not just a camera but also a printer, paper, et al.” Apart from the price aspect, what has really provided the company an edge over its competition is its retail network, which spans the whole of India. Following the at-arm’s-reach strategy, the company has a chain of Kodak Express and Kodak PhotoShop outlets. Moreover, the Kodak film roles are sold through a robust distributor network that makes them available even at kirana stores. This retail network provides the company with an advantage over the rest of the herd in reaching out to its consumers.

An engineer with an MBA degree from Faculty of Management Studies (University of Delhi), Ravi has been instrumental in the marketing of consumer and professional business units. Under his leadership, Kodak India launched a range of digital cameras and undertook major non-media initiatives to promote the digital imaging business in the country. Talking about Kodak’s future marketing strategies, he says, “India is neither completely digital as the global market is, nor is the consumer’s perspective the same; so our idea is to provide a product that is easy to use and has better technology.” For Ravi – who believes in having a leadership style that gives complete freedom and follows a decentralization policy – the biggest challenge is to maintain a balance between the rapidly changing market and consumer desires, “We like to look at it as an opportunity to introduce many more into the world of photography. In fact, the industry trends are very promising and we are geared up to maintain our lead. Of course, every industry collectively faces a scenario where the consumer is changing rapidly; so to keep up with the changing dynamics, one needs to pre-empt faster.” Eastman was a great believer in advertising – since the very beginning, he advertised his company and its products. In the Indian market too, the company has given many memorable campaigns – one of them being, “It’s a Kodak moment,” a catch line which is today commonly used in general conversations.

And after so many years of India operations, the company has now roped in Katrina Kaif (mark the ‘K’ factor) as their ambassador. “Katrina embodies the imagery and style quotient, which we are communicating to the market through our product range in India. We are looking forward to seeing the same translate into higher brand visibility for us,” explains Ravi. Our interview had ended, and while making our way out of Ravi’s vibrant Kodak office in Santa Cruz, Mumbai, one almost expected a thousand cameras to click away our sumptuous ‘Kodak moment’ exit. But perhaps we were letting our imaginations run wild. But then, wasn’t it the same imagination that led George Eastman to place all his money on an idea that seemed more out of a science fiction movie than inside the world of practicalities? Wasn’t it the same imagination that helped him build a huge empire from scratch? We’ve got our answers... Have you?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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