Yateley-based Strand Europe is powering ahead after securing an exclusive licence with Kodak to manufacture and distribute batteries worldwide through to 2023.
Building on its success with the well-known brand, the company also has the rights to supply Kodak’s LED bulbs and products such as flashlights, power banks and chargers.
It’s a success story that delivered a £28 million turnover last year for Strand, which is led by Ashok Suri, founder and today’s chairman and CEO.
Originally formed in 1992 selling videos and tape cassettes, Strand first struck gold with the launch of a ‘one for all’ remote control for all different models of TV and video recorder, before it moved into selling blank CDs and DVDs.
China’s entry into the market in the late 1990s marked a downturn for Strand however, as it struggled to compete in the face of cheaper prices and more competition.
The acquisition of supplier rights for Kodak batteries in 2006, initially just for the UK and Europe, then became a real turning point as Strand went from strength to strength, going on to become the most successful distributor worldwide of Kodak batteries.
During the leaner years, Suri had brought Barclays on board to help bring financial stability.
In 2012, the bank gave its support when Strand acquired the worldwide distributorship licence, and five years later, it was thanks to further financial backing from Barclays that Strand was then able to extend its exclusive Kodak licence for the next six years.
“An opportunity came along for us to secure the licence through to 2023, but we needed to raise $6m to do that,” said Suri. “We pitched the idea to Barclays and they came through with the funding, for which we were very grateful. Having the licence has given us much greater security and longevity as well as more leverage in the marketplace with our customers.
“Our relationship works very well. We could have looked at crowdfunding or online ideas to raise the money, but for us and the type of investment we needed, having a good relationship director who really understood our business was key.
“We regularly talk to Ian Corben and his team about different opportunities and it’s really important to be able to do that.”
The agreement enables Strand to manufacture Kodak batteries under licence in China at factories specially approved to meet Kodak’s specifications and quality standards.
Overall, Strand sells and distributes Kodak products to around 80 countries worldwide with the Hong Kong-based team overseeing production, while the
Yateley head office is home to warehouse facilities and 20 employees, including a sales and distribution team. Further offices are also based in the US and Germany.
Typical UK customers include high-street chains such as Poundstretcher and Poundland, but with the strength of the new agreement behind him, Suri also hopes to make inroads into the “top five”, such as Tesco and B&Q.
Looking ahead, Suri is also excited by the prospects in the LED bulb market, for which Strand has the exclusive licence for the consumer channels. He believes the energy and cost savings, as well as the environmental benefits, far outweigh competitors such as halogen bulbs and says there are huge opportunities to be had.
Speaking about the bank’s support, Barclays’ relationship director Ian Corben, said the team believed in Suri’s success, his methodology and ability to deliver success on a worldwide scale.
“When Ashok first asked us in 2012 for support to extend his UK and European licence for Kodak batteries into a worldwide one, we just knew it was one of those deals we had to do,” he said.
“We worked hard to understand the business and Ashok was totally committed and compliant in giving us what we needed. Our relationship is very important and when the opportunity then came up to extend the licence, he once again demonstrated his understanding of the worldwide market and we were very pleased to be able to support him.
“In doing so, we have ensured he has the power to talk to potential customers from a position of strength, so it is good for his business, his customers and his suppliers.”
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