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It is what it is. I am not a hypocrite. But then came the global financial crisis, and domestic policy paralysis.
Many Indian companies — especially family-owned businesses, with fuzzy distinctions between company assets and controlling shareholders — ran into severe financial difficulties.
Raghuram Rajan, the central bank governor, and Arun Jaitley, the finance minister, are determined to clean up the banking system weighed down by bad loans.
And all three men seem inclined to make an example of the erstwhile king of good times — and demonstrate they can hold rich debt defaulters to account.
Spanish pop star Enrique Iglesias was flown in to perform. A few weeks later, Rajan spoke out. If you are in trouble, you should be cutting down on your expenses. Kingfisher Villa, the beachfront bungalow in Goa Until then, Indian banks had seemed resigned to a protracted legal battle to collect repayment.
By the time they petitioned the court, however, Mallya had already returned to the United Kingdom, where he has permanent residency and owns a London apartment, an office and a large country home in Hertfordshire.
How ludicrous can that be! Both before and after the Kingfisher collapse, he was fiercely criticised by employees and in the media for jetting to global sporting events and parties, while failing to pay thousands of Kingfisher employees, who had worked without salaries for months in the hope that the tycoon would manage to keep the cash-strapped airline aloft. It was disgruntled unpaid engineers who finally grounded the carrier, refusing to certify the planes as safe to fly.
Yet at the Dorchester, the businessman scoffs at the suggestion that he misread the current mood in India. But what did I spend on my birthday party? Yet in a puritanical country — where alcohol consumption is still regarded by many as a sin and highly regulated, and where wealthy businessmen usually keep a low profile — Mallya was always a soft target.
As he mingled with his guests, he was followed closely by attendants bearing his phones, drinks and cigars on silver trays. Everyone wants to be like him, and when they cannot be like him, they just hate him. And it is true that, even before this crisis, in person at small gatherings he had always been a more subdued, and sharper, personality than his image — and fondness for bling — would suggest.
I am a very private, simple guy. People are completely swayed and influenced by the professional side of me which is misunderstood to be my personal side.
I am brand ambassador for my Kingfisher in a media dark environment. The reason why I endorsed my own brand was because I wanted to create an aspirational value around the brand identity and the brand image. Women, fancy cars, aeroplanes.
All this was brought into play in creating a brand identity and brand personality of Kingfisher. It all got lumped on me.
One bursts into the Kingfisher beer jingle. Mallya says he also hears often from other Indian tycoons, anxious that the onslaught against him is a precursor of a wider offensive against indebted businessmen. His canniest move came in , when Prime Minister Morarji Desai — who drank his own urine and publicly touted its health benefits — pledged to impose total prohibition in India by Vittal bought up Indian distilleries and breweries from their panicked owners at bargain-basement prices.
In , just two years later, Desai was ousted, and the prohibition threat receded. In , at the age of 23, he had launched Kingfisher Premium beer, inspired by a defunct colonial brand whose label was buried in United Breweries archives. Alcohol sales are regulated by individual states, which sell beer and spirits at government outlets at controlled prices, with the highest taxes of any industry in India.
United Spirits is said by company insiders to require , separate permits to operate each year. Mallya worked the unwieldy system adeptly, establishing apparently unassailable dominance of the market.
United Breweries, led by Kingfisher beer, sold more than half the beer drunk in India.
Growth was buoyant. For Mallya, these were indeed good times. In India, air travel was considered a luxury — transportation for the privileged — rather than a basic service in a modern economy. Subject to punitive taxes, especially on jet fuel, aviation was dominated by utilitarian carriers, including the former state monopoly carrier and a clutch of no-frills start-ups. He launched his carrier with great fanfare — and a lavish party — in May , on the 18th birthday of his son Siddharth.
Mallya was confident he could win over Indian travellers with a taste of the good life he himself so visibly enjoyed. Passengers on short-haul economy flights got hot meals and personal entertainment systems. But Mallya wanted Kingfisher to fly abroad. However, months before the launch of Kingfisher, New Delhi had instituted a requirement that Indian airlines had to have been flying for five years, and have a fleet of 20 planes, before they could operate international fights.
This rule — still in force today — is fiercely criticised by aviation professionals and start-up carriers as being designed chiefly to protect incumbent carriers. In any case, Mallya circumvented it. It was on the verge of collapse — but just a year away from flying abroad. At the age of 28, Mallya lost his father, Vittal Mallya to a heart attack. After the death of his father, in , he became the chairman of the United Breweries Group in As a chairman of the United Breweries Group, he focused on Alcohol business which was regarded to be having much more profitable than the core businesses involved.
It is the most consumed beer in India and is also available in 52 other countries. Vijay Mallya during his youthful days In , when the Indian domestic-airlines market was in its least favorable circumstances, Mallya initiated Kingfisher Airlines with world-class facilities and the airlines became an instant hit.
Later, Kingfisher airlines started international flights; which became a drastic downfall for the company. The company began incurring significant losses and accumulated enormous debt. The airlines shut down on October , and it even failed to pay the salaries of their employees.
In , he became associated with the Janta Party lead by Subramanian Swami.
In , with support from Congress Party and the Janta Dal, Mallya contested as an independent candidate from Karnataka. He won and was elected to Rajya Sabha. Eventually, Mallya resigned from his post, as a Rajya Sabha MP, following allegations of fraudulent dealings and money laundering leveled against him.
He was awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest civilian award in France. He even failed to pay salaries of the airline employees for around 15 months.