Why I Am a Big Fan of Mr Vijay Mallya & Wish Him Well

Jul 2, 2020

Just to set the record straight before you read any further – I absolutely mean it. No sarcasm or pun intended. I am an ardent fan of Mr Vijay Mallya. To me, the man is a legend, an icon.

Of course, he is not someone to be worshipped or idolised. But in no way, he deserves to be hounded or crucified as is being done by prosecuting agencies, vindictive lenders, belligerent media, selfish politicians or a general anti-rich society.

Any person who had the pleasure of flying with Kingfisher Airlines, when it was in its prime, would tell you how opulent and luxurious the experience was. It was an “Indian Emirates” in the making. Of course, it was a risky venture. Lenders should have known better at the time of lending. Aviation is a very volatile business. Luxury airlines, in particular, have always witnessed turbulent times throughout world history. Likened to Richard Branson of Virgin Group in his “good times”, we ought to go a little soft on Mr Vijay Mallya.

Aviation is one of the core infrastructures of any country. Tell me honestly, wouldn’t the fate of the Indian Aviation Industry have been better if even a small portion of the money that the government burned on Air India had been used to rescue Kingfisher Airlines?

accumulated losses of Air India have swelled to around 70,000 crores in the past decade whereas the total unpaid debts of Kingfisher were around 10,000 crores when it busted. what is a bigger loot of “taxpayers’ money”?

What would you say about the handling of Jet Airways by the government? So, I hold the government equally responsible for the Kingfisher fiasco. Just study world history, how many times various governments have bailed out aviation companies? But in India, we let them die.

Let us understand why Mr Mallya faced such brutal public wrath:

(1) Hypocrisy of Indian Society: Firstly, ours is a relatively hypocritical and judgemental society. We don’t accept the fact that a person has the total freedom to choose his/her lifestyle. We feel compelled to judge it as right or wrong. Secondly, due to the sharp disparity of income & wealth in our society, there is an ever-growing rich-poor divide. This is further fuelled by politicians for their own selfish motives.

Hence, we abhor the flamboyant and extravagant lifestyle of Mr Mallya. He becomes an easy target. Probably because of our own schadenfreude, we love to hate him.

(2) Fund diversions and impropriety: The biggest reason given for the victimisation of Mr Mallya is the diversion of funds & impropriety. But is he the only one to do that? Such transgressions have not been very uncommon in the Indian business community but were never treated so harshly. Agreed, Mr Mallya was wrongly overconfident in the lethargy of the Indian judicial system and the lack of political will of the past.

(3) They want to set an example of Mr Vijay Mallya: After coming to his better senses and realisation of the encroaching prosecuting agencies, Mr Mallya has offered to pay off all the obligations. But surprisingly, lenders and government are not interested in that. They want to set an example of him. I find this against any lender’s business acumen. Recovering the money was a good example in itself. What’s the point in crucifying him? Will this boost businessmen’s sentiment and confidence?

He is a legend that our country should celebrate. He has contributed to some very good ventures like United Breweries, Kingfisher Airlines, Formula One Indian GP etc. You forgot he got back the Tipu Sultan’s sword and became a national hero. But as soon as the fortunes of the ‘king of good times’ changed, we decided to abandon him.

I understand the compulsion of politicians, they are bound by the general public opinion of the middle class. The middle class that struggles to make ends meet and is harassed/hassled by lenders if they miss a single EMI. They are bound to hate the epitome of wealth and luxury– Mr Mallya.

But I fail to understand why no businessmen stood behind the business tycoon. He took a business risk which did not work out. Period. Businessmen should always defend one of their own. One day they might also find themselves in such a situation. Business groups should support each other, especially in tough times and against a socialist society and a populist government.

Lets accept his offer to pay off the debt along with interest. Let us encourage him to take another stride, but a responsible one this time. Let bygones be bygones. Let us move on….

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