At 8.45 pm on Thursday, nearly six hours after Kingfisher Airlines made peace with striking employees, British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson made his way into a makeshift stage erected by the poolside of a hotel in New Delhi, accompanied by bhangra beats and a bevy of dancers. Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group of companies, had arrived in the capital earlier in the day to announce that his airline Virgin Atlantic would be connecting New York and New Delhi from Sunday.
Until he strode onto the stage, Branson, one of the most colourful personalities ever to have headed a business, was oddly low-key. The weather was pleasant, but he was feeling under the weather. For guests eager to shake hands, he offered a finger as substitute to prevent them from catching his cold. It didn't help that he had been up for hours and was suffering from jet lag. Nevertheless, he had showed up, looking impeccable in a dark short blazer and pants over a white shirt. He was also alert; those trademark silver locks could be seen moving corner to corner as he mixed freely with the crowd.
He talked incessantly with the 100-odd guests — consultants, analysts, travel agents, executives of rival airlines and journalists — who had arrived from the aviation stratosphere. He really had no choice because of a constant stream of people pressing against each other or craning their necks to chat and pose for photographs.
Great pain had gone into creating an Indian setting for the event. The poolside resembled an Indian wedding venue thanks to an array of flowers and garlands that adorned every nook and corner. ("We are more Indian than any other Indian airline.") Six artistes from Odisha performed chhau, a form of tribal martial dance. Soft, classical music played in the background. Low cots draped in flashy red sheets took care of tired legs.
Champagne flowed. But curiously for a Virgin party, legendary for pomp and show, the only glamour on display were two cocktail waitresses in shorts. One had to search hard for the perfect smiles and impossibly high cheekbones that assemble at swish parties.
On stage, Branson took little time to transform into his swashbuckling self. Standing before a large hoarding of Virgin that screamed "Gateway of London", he thanked a delegation of UK Trade and Investment agents and a posse of journalists present at the party. He remembered Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway "without whom we wouldn't have had an airline". He called on employees manning airports to shout a "yeah", a small, but important gesture to show he valued their services.
"It's great to be back," Branson said, referring to the resumption of services from Mumbai. "We withdrew because of the global financial crisis but hopefully we are back for good." Branson then asked the guests where they would like Virgin to fly next in India. "Hyderabad," pat came the answer. "Wherever there is an HSBC office," came another shout.
Can you expect the same from Dr Vijay Mallya ever ? For him in morning Tea, Evening Wine and night Woman is more importenet than any business.
Capt. Shekhar Gupta [ Pilot, DIAM, M.Ae.S.I., MAOPA [USA] ]
Blog : http://shekharaerosoft.blogspot.in/
Shekhar is a Professional Pilot with more then 8 years experience of Flying on 14 different types of Air crafts in 10 different countries with accident free flying record. Shekhar is good in Flying Training as well as in Ground class for Pilots. Shekhar started his flying career from Skycabs [Colombo ] and worked for many Airlines Training Companies from different part of the world. He trained more then 350 Pilots who are flying world wide. He is a member of Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association [ USA], Royal Society of Aeronautics [ UK], Delhi Flying Club, Aeronautical Society of India, MP Flying Club Indore, Aeronautical Research Society. He is a frequent flyer on AA, Air India, British Airways, Cathey Pacific, Delta Airlines, Emerites, Ethihad, Jet Airways, Kingfisher and many more. Shekhar is an active member of www.MissionToCanada.com set up by Govt. of Canada and Air Transport Association of Canada.
His recent passion is Aviation SEO for which he takes classes for IIT & IIM students in India and others in abroad. And www.AirAviator.com a new proposed virtual Air Charter Services.