x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Polaroid pictures itself as Apple

Polaroid, which has twice filed for bankruptcy, says it plans to launch operations in the Arab world as it looks to become "the next Apple".

Polaroid hired Lady Gaga last year as the brand's creative director. The singer has since unveiled a number of products under the Grey Label range. David Becker / Getty Images / AFP
Polaroid hired Lady Gaga last year as the brand's creative director. The singer has since unveiled a number of products under the Grey Label range. David Becker / Getty Images / AFP

Polaroid, the troubled camera company famous for quick-developing pictures, plans to launch operations in the Middle East after signing the singer Lady Gaga last year in a bid to rejuvenate its brand.

After years of decline, Polaroid says it will have a sales and research office in the Arab world as it looks to become "the next Apple".

"Next year we'll be here for sure," said Bobby Sager, the chairman of Polaroid. "The real sales outfit in the Middle East probably won't begin until June."

Polaroid was founded in 1937, and during its 1970s heyday enwjoyed global success with cameras that produced photos that developed before one's eyes.

But the US company experienced a staggering decline in the digital age and twice filed for bankruptcy protection.

In 2009, a partnership led by Gordon Brothers Brands and Hilco Consumer Capital bought Polaroid for US$88 million (Dh323.2m).

Mr Sager, a multimillionaire philanthropist and photographer, made his fortune at Gordon Brothers and remains a shareholder at the company.

"Polaroid was a very troubled company. So I had to take the first year and stabilise the patient, so to speak. And now we're ready to really rock," he said.

Mr Sager was instrumental in signing the US singer Lady Gaga as Polaroid's creative director in January last year. Lady Gaga this year unveiled a number of products under Polaroid's Grey Label range, which included a camera built into sunglasses.

The sunglasses are "probably not going to be out until the spring, until March or April", said Mr Sager.

In a bid to regain its appeal, Polaroid is working on multiple new products including smartphones, television sets and cameras.

"There will be something like three or four dozen Polaroid products beyond just the camera - tablets and so forth," said Mr Sager, adding that the high youth population in the Arab world makes this region attractive as a sales and research hub.

"There's such a high percentage of young people who live in the region, and young people are what Polaroid is all about. So it's a part of the world that we're going to take very seriously. I'm sure that we'll have a sales and research and development office. We're very interested in tapping into young people for ideas."

The UAE would be a possible base for Polaroid's expansion in the region, but Mr Sager said he could not give more details on which country would be selected. He added that the plan to rebuild Polaroid was "a 10-year" endeavour.

"I didn't buy Polaroid as a walk down memory lane. I bought Polaroid because Polaroid has always stood for innovation and cutting-edge technology," he said.

"At its core, Polaroid is about sharing and creativity. In a sense, Polaroid was the original social network. You would take a picture, and write something on the bottom of it. I think that Polaroid had the opportunity to be Apple and they blew it. And I have in my sights the idea that Polaroid can be the next Apple."

bflanagan@thenational.ae