As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes on the 13th of August, 2020, after more than ten years in which the business was supposed to ”get serious” and youthful enthusiasm was supposed to mature into a stable business in which this Croatian product was the main star, Mladen Peharda thought that was it, he’d cracked it, that from now on things would be plain sailing. And then came the global coronavirus pandemic.
His company, Agena Marin, which manufactures tourist vessels along with the provision of business solutions for markets around the world, is a drop in the ocean of companies whose plans have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic this year, with the majority cancelling nearly closed deals and orders. But for Peharda and this Croatian product, this is just a dip that will pass, the only option is to continue doing business, preparing and developing new projects and markets. A visionary and innovator who started his business fifteen years ago, literally in a garage, designing the world’s first semi-submarine for tourist trips, has 15 employees in his workshop in Poličnik near Biograd today,
”So far there have been no layoffs or. It just doesn’t stop,” he said.
“No one has managed to escape this crisis, because it has affected the whole world, all of our markets are stuck in tourism, and that needs to be overcome. For a year now, we’ve been half-dead, we’ve sold six boats so far, a lot of them have been cancelled, because we make products and do work which is related to the tourist season. We used the help of the state, which was very useful, and in the rest of the year, everything will depend on how the market will recover,” explained this Croatian entrepreneur.
He addd that they invest a lot of money and time into research and development, which they’re now doing intensively.
“We’re developing a model for a small solar ship… In the meantime, we’re negotiating some new projects and have several potential new customers, so not everything has completely stopped,” said Mladen Peharda, whose business switched to exports after the breakthrough of the semi-submarine concept in Croatia. His company generated 10.2 million kuna in revenue last year, 3.5 times more than the year before, with a profit of just over half a million kuna.
Peharda designed and produced the world’s first semi-submarine for tourist excursions.
“After we reached our goal in 2016 to sell 30 semi-submarines on the Croatian Adriatic and exhibited at the largest nautical fair in Düsseldorf, we turned to exports. Our message is that we don’t sell the product, but the whole business solution. Practically free of charge in the price of the vessel, we give customers all the ‘know-how’, because it’s very important to us how our product will be placed and accepted in the market and among its users. It’s not a franchise, but it has a lot of the elements of a franchise. At first, it was not easy to break into markets where they don’t know you, but in these four years, we’ve sold about 50 vessels in the Maldives, the Caribbean, Mexico, Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Seychelles, Spain, and one ship is in Ohrid in Macedonia,” revealed Peharda.
After the international success of this Croatian product, a semi-submarine which is sold in two sizes, three years ago, the Agena Marina team developed a prototype taxi catamaran, created for local use at a decent speed on relatively short distances such as the Adriatic. The first yellow eco friendly catamaran, Taxi Cat, sailed in 2018 on Korcula, and Italy is the first and currently the only foreign market for this Croatian product. Currently, nine more Taxi Cat boats are being built for the Croatian market, one model is being drawn up for 12-metre diving trips, and there is also a larger “brother” Taxi Cat designed for 80 people.
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