Hasselblad Mines Company DNA for Rebirth

October 31, 2016

After ending what had been widely perceived as a brand-damaging partnership with Sony and churning through several CEOs in as many years, Hasselblad hit 2016 running with two major product introductions. We sat down with CEO Perry Oosting at PhotoPlus Expo to recap the year that was (the 75th anniversary of the company) and look ahead to what comes next for the Swedish firm.

What follows is an edited transcript.

On repositioning the company following the Sony era

There was a sense of crisis and low morale in the company as he took over the reins, Oosting admits. “I was the third CEO in three years, that’s never a good thing. You need an element of consistency.”

The first order of business, Oosting says, was to get the company on the same page about a turnaround strategy. “We wanted everyone to agree on the overall strategy. We had very few resources but we started with a completely blank sheet of paper.”

One crucial element to the strategy was to reclaim the company’s “core DNA,” Oosting says. That meant re-centering the company in Sweden. “We brought it all back to Sweden, the design and R&D.” In this way, Hasselblad began to reap the benefits of a small company. “We can make decisions faster. We have less bureaucracy. It’s more entrepreneurial. If someone makes a mistake, they can own it and move on,” Oosting says.

The result of the back-to-the-drawing board approach was the H6D camera system, a complete redesign of every electronic element of the camera. “This gives us a platform for the future,” Oosting says.

Despite the rocky patch, Oosting, who doesn’t hail from the photo industry, quickly discovered “that there was so much good will toward the brand.”

On the genesis and launch of the X1D mirrorless medium format camera

There were intense battles over the design of the X1D, Oosting says. “If you can’t fight about design, you can’t have a great design.”

When those were settled and the product was launched, the company was surprised by the response. “In 10 days, we sold out our forecasted supply for the entire year,” Oosting says. The sales spike has pushed the company to better prepare for demand and restructure its supply chain to ensure it can keep pace with sales while not compromising quality.

“We’re later than we planned to be with the camera, but we’re not in this for the short term,” Oosting says. There will be more lenses for the X1D hitting the market in 2017 and it’s a system that the company plans to keep investing in over the long term.

On the state of the medium format market as new competition enters the fray

“All of this interest, it’s only good, it shows people are trading up,” Oosting says. Will competition from Fuji’s forthcoming mirrorless medium format camera hinder X1D sales? Oosting doesn’t believe so. “We have the first mover advantage and we have experience in this field,” he adds. “It’s not only about the hardware and the lenses. It’s about the eco-system and software–that’s our advantage.”

On the mobile phone collaboration with Motorola

Motorola approached Hasselblad to design a camera module for its phone and while the company doesn’t necessarily plan to dive head first into mobile photography, it won’t rule out building more such devices. “Motorola told us ours was one of the best-selling mods,” Oosting says.

What the company won’t do, Oosting insists, is to simply create a checklist of product categories and “work our way down the list. We have to understand where we’re different and how we bring value. It has to be authentic.”