India Insight

To pity or not to pity Vijay Mallya

Picture this – You run an airline that never made a profit, you need to pay off $1.4 billion debt from who-knows-where and airports, taxmen and oil companies are pursuing you to get their money back.

You still believe you can turn the airline around. You still believe you will find a white knight who will buy into your carrier and help it back on its feet. You are giving your best to convince investors that your brand-value is still strong, you can still attract passengers – all you need is some hard cash immediately.

And then, suddenly, your airline is forced to cancel dozens of flights because your pilots want their salaries before you are allowed to run the airline, or even negotiate with investors to save their jobs.

It must be frustrating to be in that position. It must be difficult being Vijay Mallya.

“Why should I spend every day to keep our airline afloat if the actions of our own colleagues lead to loss of guest confidence and lower income by cancellation of flights or low load factors that result from uncertainty?” a frustrated Mallya wrote in a strongly worded letter to employees on Thursday, according to local media. “What is the confidence that I can give to investors who I am in dialogue with?”

PETA offers Kingfisher a vegan lift

One of the many benefits of vegetarianism, so animal rights activists say, is that it cures impotence. To that end, the global rights group PETA is offering a way to give flagging Kingfisher Airlines a lift.

The airline, once the flashiest in the Indian aviation industry with well-groomed hostesses and gourmet food, is struggling to stay upright after running up a debt of about $1.3 billion. It has been wooing investors, pleading with banks and sounding out anyone who could help.

Now, help is being offered from an unlikely quarter.

PETA has made a “tempting offer to help keep Kingfisher Airlines out of its financial crisis and flying sky-high”, the group said in a statement. Condition: The airline — whose advertisements once featured tastefully served lobsters and baked chicken — covers its planes with anti-non-vegetarianism slogans.

Selling stake in alcohol business – Mallya’s last roll of dice?

It’s always spectacular when things go horribly wrong for the rich and famous.

When Vijay Mallya — the king of good times — launched a high-profile airline in 2005, his primary motive was to use the platform to promote his best-selling Kingfisher beer.

“I can’t advertise my brand. I have to live my brand,” he said then.

Kingfisher – A Shakespearean Comedy or Tragedy?

State Bank of India Chairman Pratip Chaudhuri took recourse to the Great Bard when asked about what the banks, who now own a substantial portion of the debt-hobbled airline Kingfisher Airlines, would do about its exposure.

“Much ado about nothing,” Chaudhuri said in response to the media frenzy, in a reference to the Shakespearean comedy about two pairs of lovers who are caught in a web of misunderstanding.

Even as he tries to make light of the situation, Chaudhuri, the largest lender to Kingfisher, has reason to be worried. He, himself, is fighting rising bad loans at his own bank and wouldn’t like Kingfisher to add to it.

Force India podium, giant leap for Indian motor sport?

India can boast of taking a major stride in Formula One after Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella drove from pole to second on the podium at the Belgium Grand Prix on Sunday.

The first points for the team owned by India’s liquor and airlines baron Vijay Mallya was a pleasant surprise, the team having failed to make an impact since it was launched ahead of the 2008 season.

The Indian media lapped up the news, indicating that F1′s popularity in India will only grow more rapidly as Indian fans gradually embrace the team as theirs.

Prohibition policy in Gujarat — a tragic farce?

More than 130 people died after consuming bootleg liquor in Gujarat last week.

While prohibition is in place in Gujarat, liquor is often smuggled in from neighbouring states and people are forced to buy it at inflated prices.

What can the poor do? They cannot afford to buy branded alcohol so they consume illicit liquor. Plastic pouches called ‘potlis’ of illegally brewed liquor are available for as little as ten rupees.

Some have said that Gujarat’s prohibition policy encourages bootlegging. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya argues that apart from loss of revenue this leads to “illegal, unhygienic and unsupervised production of deadly cocktails which claim innocent lives.”

Gandhi memorabilia auction: a wake-up call for India?

“Delighted and relieved,” is what the great-grandson of India’s iconic freedom hero Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi said once news came in that a collection of Gandhi memorabilia sold to tycoon Vijay Mallya will come home.

Over the last two weeks, the auction of Gandhi’s personal belongings has created uproar in India, with indignant citizens demanding to know why things came to such a pass.

Indians, who view the items as part of their national heritage, have said government intervention at a much earlier stage would have perhaps prevented the last minute dramatic build-up over the bidding.