Alligator flying through shallow waters

A passion for hunting and fishing as well as engineering background have added up to a business for the production of airboats. Alexander Krantov, the son and business partner of the Alligator Airboats founder, shared how his father’s hobby has brought them both popularity and wealth.

After vocational training, Alexander Krantov Sr. worked as a truck crane operator in Mirny, Yakutia. That occupation helped him improve his technical knowledge and skills, so he even once restored a ravaged truck crane after plunder. He later became skilled in using various types of equipment working on a gold mining team in the Irkutsk Region, and started a company to sell imported spare parts for gold mining equipment, in partnership with his friends.

In his spare time, Krantov enjoyed hunting and fishing. He wandered far off into Siberian forests, where he often had to cross shallow rivers. That was a problem, so in 2008 he bought an airboat for his trips. But its quality was far from what he wanted. He repeatedly called the manufacturer, made complaints and suggestions for improvement. The company fixed a few things for him, but after some time the manager stopped taking his calls. So he decided to fix the boat himself. The improvement worked, and by the time he finished the project, he had an idea of building his own airboat.

So he plunged into studying the methodology of building this type of watercraft, and consulting with experts. He visited more than ten airboat and hovercraft manufacturers for advice and eventually built a boat for himself. Alexander was quite happy with the boat’s performance and made several airboats for his friends who were also into hunting and fishing. They liked the speed and durability of the boats. As soon as in 2009, Alexander Krantov started a company, Alligator Airboats.

In the beginning, he was making boats in his garage and paid for materials with his own money. The designs were also his own. In 2013, Alexander moved closer to his son in Krasnoyarsk, also Alexander, who had just graduated from Novosibirsk University of Architecture and opened a web design studio.

“When I went into web design, my initial goal was to become a marketing expert and promote my own business,” Krantov Jr. recalls.

When Alexander told his son about his boat-making, the young man offered his father to become partners and promote his product.

After moving to Krasnoyarsk, Alexander Krantov sold his real property in the Irkutsk Region and invested the money into building a workshop. The workshop was completed pretty soon – and the work started.

Currently, the airboat production facility is based 20 km from Krasnoyarsk. Alligator Airboats produces amphibious vehicles that can move across shallow rivers, swamps, ice ridges, bulrush, mountain river riffles and even ice and snow. These airboats are propelled by a hovercraft-type propeller. These are flat-bottomed boats covered in plastic scales, which reduce water resistance and allow the boat to plan. The boats can reach a speed of up to 130 km/h. This was made possible due to a special design of the engine and hull, which were developed after numerous experiments with aerodynamics. Aluminum or stainless steel are used in boat construction.

The boats are usually customized, but a catalog of standard models is also offered. The father and son constantly develop new boat models and modifications in accordance with the customers’ requests. The airboats are then delivered to various Russian cities, as well as Kazakhstan and Finland using various transport companies. The producer offers maintenance for the entire period of use.

The company employs 30 people. Krantov Sr. is the director, while Krantov Jr. is financial director. Most of the staff are workers who are directly engaged in manufacturing. The company also has an accountant, manufacturing technician and production heads who work at the production facility office. The sales and marketing department is located in Krasnoyarsk, while SMM managers work remotely.

The main clients of Alligator Airboats are fishermen, hunters, as well the Emergencies Ministry and park rangers in nature reserves. The airboats are often purchased by recreation camps and tourism lovers. They are sold online, with advertisements that lead to the main site or a landing page. Efforts are taken to promote Facebook groups as well as the YouTube account. The company also actively participates in themed exhibitions and tenders.     

“We plan to increase our sales and production twofold this year, and to further boost growth,” Alexander says.

The company’s plans also include expanding its presence in the Russian market and entering markets in the United States, Canada and Europe. The father and the son plan to open a showroom in Moscow, set up a branch of a large component assembly production facility outside Moscow that would allow shipping orders internationally, and build a new airboat manufacturing plant. The company founder’s biggest dream is to create an industrial park or a cluster for producing extreme vehicles such as wheeled all-terrain vehicles, swamp boats, and others.

Along with boosting sales, Krantov Sr. and Krantov Jr. plan to expand the airboat assortment, which will include models equipped with more powerful engines for large companies and cargo transportation, both hybrid and diesel modifications. Their production and sales will start as early as this year.

To expand production, Krantov Sr. and Krantov Jr. are re-estimating the financial model of their venture and seeking investors. Krantov Sr. often wakes up early at 5 a.m. and makes a draft of some new model of a boat or unit. Such aspiration will most definitely make his and his son’s plans come true.    

By Christina Firsova

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