Kalashnikov Woos with a smartphone sync rifle, eye production in India

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Russian weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov plans to begin production of its AK-203 submachine gun in India this year and wants to attract a wider audience with a high-tech rifle, said CEO Dmitry Tarasov.

Named after the designer of the AK-47, which has been used for decades in wars around the world, Kalashnikov is looking for new business and markets after being hit by US and EU sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Its goal is a 60% increase in annual revenues to more than 50 billion rubles (approximately 4,900 crores) by 2025, Tarasov said in an interview with Reuters.

With a built-in computer, the Ultima rifle provides WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity and can be synchronized with smartphones. It is designed to attract younger customers as gadget enthusiasts.

Also central to Kalashnikov’s growth plans is India, where it aims to produce 670,000 AK-203 rifles over the next decade with the Indian Ministry of Defense.

“We hope to start production of AK-203 rifles at our joint venture in India this year. I think this is a long-term trend, so other examples will follow soon,” he said.

Kalashnikov launched licensed production of the AK-130 in Armenia last year, and Tarasov, 37, said he wanted to deepen co-operation with Latin America, where he has well-established relations with Venezuela.

“We know there is active demand in this market,” he said, but declined to provide further details.

High-tech rifle

Kalashnikov sells weapons to 27 countries and produces 95 percent of Russia’s small arms, but US sanctions imposed in 2014 banned US entities from doing business with Kalashnikovs.

The AK-203 is an improved version of the AK-47, invented by Soviet soldier Mikhail Kalashnikov after being wounded during World War II.

Ultima is an entirely new venture for the company, in which state-owned conglomerate Rostec has a 25 percent stake plus one share. Alan Lushnikov, a former deputy transport minister, owns a 75% stake minus one share through a company called TKH-Invest.

“With Ultima, we want to attract new customers who are not usually our target audience,” Tarasov said. “We target customers who want to get a little driving or adrenaline. Introducing a niche for semi-games can be an option.”

Unmanned aerial vehicles, some of which take off like a helicopter and fly like a glider carrying video cameras, are also “very important business,” he said.

Kalashnikov also sees the market for torches, knives and other branded products as promising.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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