THiNK 2013 witnessed one of its most interesting sessions, âHeadwind, Tailwind: Why Entrepreneurship is So Hard in Indiaâ, featuring the maverick mogul Vijay Mallya discussing his journey and perspectives threadbare with Tehelkaâs Editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal.
Mallya revealed how he was thrust into business by his father against his wishes after school although he wanted to be a doctor like his grandfather. His stint in the USA exposed him to the advanced market research tools that he subsequently used in India to build the âKingfisherâ brand. He recalled how he resurrected Kingfisher- a brand that had been long shelved- and built it around the lifestyle aspirations of the youth by foraying into music, racing and fashion. Despite a ban on advertising alcohol, Mallya found innovative ways to advertise and build his brand – he reckons himself to be the âfather of surrogate advertisingâ. Ever since he assumed the reins of the empire at the age of 26 as a result of his fatherâs demise, Mallya recounts how he kept building, expanding and multiplying the business.
In what was meant to be an epithet for his company, it was Mallya instead who came to be increasingly recognized as the âKing of Good Timesâ. He admits that he appointed himself as the brand ambassador of Kingfisher as he didnât want to pay celebrities for endorsement.
Mallya has been a Member of Parliament for the last ten years and explained that his motive of entering politics back in 2002 was to give back to society and foster accountability. Brushing aside criticism of his flamboyant persona, Mallya quipped that he could not be hypocritical and besides, the money he was spending was not earned out of bribery or dishonesty.
On being asked whether entering the airline sector was a mistake, Mallya remains steadfast and says that he had made a calculated decision. He spoke about how despite being the biggest domestic carrier, his airline had to bite the dust due to rising oil prices, unrelenting attitude of banks, government apathy and regulation. He maintained that he never asked for a bailout and doesnât believe in one.
Although a firm believer and passionate champion of the âIndia storyâ, Mallya seemed rather pessimistic about the country now, as he feels the captains of the industry and various MNCs are being hounded unfairly by the government. He lamented the refusal of the government to even play a facilitative role in helping businesses grow. Commenting on the recent spate of welfare legislations, he said he believed that it was all very well to enact these laws, but the country cannot quite reach its goals without industry and development.
Summing up his zest for life, Mallya remarked rather philosophically – âThe way I look at life, you cannot complete a lifecycle without failuresâ.
By Shashank Shah