MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian arms manufacturer Kalashnikov plans to start making its AK-203 assault rifle in India this year and wants to attract a wider audience with a hi-tech shotgun, chief executive Dmitry Tarasov said.
Named after the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle that has been used for decades in wars around the world, Kalashnikov has been seeking new business and markets after being hit by U.S. and EU sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
It is targeting a 60% increase in annual revenues to more than 50 billion roubles ($675.33 million) by 2025, Tarasov told Reuters in an interview.
Featuring a built-in computer, the Ultima shotgun envisages WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity and can synchronize with smart phones. It is intended to woo younger clients such as gadget enthusiasts.
Also central to Kalashnikov’s growth plans is India, where it aims to produce 670,000 AK-203 rifles in the next decade together with the Indian defence ministry.
“We are hoping to launch production of AK-203 rifles at our joint venture in India this year. I feel it is a long-term trend so other examples will follow soon,” he said.
Kalashnikov launched licenced production of the AK-130 assault rifle in Armenia last year and Tarasov, 37, said it wants to deepen cooperation with Latin America, where it has a well established relationship with Venezuela.
“We know that there is an active demand in that market,” he said, but declined to provide further details.
Kalashnikov sells weapons to 27 countries and produces 95% of Russia’s small arms, but the U.S. sanctions imposed in 2014 banned U.S. entities from doing business with Kalashnikov.
The AK-203 is an advanced version of the AK-47 invented by Soviet soldier Mikhail Kalashnikov after he was wounded during World War Two.
The Ultima is an entirely new venture for the company in which state conglomerate Rostec has a 25% stake plus one share. Alan Lushnikov, a former deputy transport minister, owns a 75% stake minus one share via a firm called TKH-Invest.
“With Ultima we want to attract new customers who are not typically our target audience,” said Tarasov. “We are targeting customers who want to get some drive or adrenaline. Entering a semi-game niche could be an option.”
Unmanned aerial vehicles, some of which take off like a helicopter and fly like a glider carrying video cameras, are also “a very important business,” he said.
Kalashnikov also sees the market in torches, knives and other branded products as promising.
($1 = 74.0380 roubles)
Writing by Andrey Ostroukh, Editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage