For a painfully long time now, the world has been an unhappy place for Vijay Mallya. Unkind too, he is likely to say. The liquor tycoon, once a monument to opulence and flamboyance, is now almost defensive about his flashy lifestyle.
"I have learnt the hard way that in India wealth should not be displayed. Better to be a multi billionaire politician dressed in Khadi," he tweeted on Saturday.
Understandably, Mallya was not upset to have dropped off a list of billionaires recently. "Thanks to the Almighty that Forbes (magazine) has removed me from the so-called billionaires list... less jealousy, less frenzy and wrongful attacks," he tweeted. A forced change in lifestyle and riches are merely two of the many twists and turns that Mallya's life has taken in recent times. If he once revelled in the attention of flashbulbs, he abhors it today.
Mallya was not seen in India for weeks until his return to the Formula One race in Greater Noida's Buddh International Circuit on Saturday. A senior Kingfisher AirlinesBSE 4.59 % executive said the options in India had long run out: "A solution can be found only overseas."
But, by his own admission, Mallya has been called an absconder. During the time he was away, Mallya has evoked strong reactions, many of them unprintable, on Twitter.
His return has been anything but easy despite his protestations. He faced the discomforting prospect of running into angry employees protesting unpaid salaries at the venue. In a flash, the management, which has been ruing a severe cash crunch for months, offered a month's pay to buy peace with them and avoid embarrassment for Mallya. Again, a drastic change in fortunes for a man who was lauded for bringing Gandhi and Tipu Sultan memorabilia from foreign shores to India.
It's not hard to understand the root cause of Mallya's troubles - Kingfisher Airlines. The airline apart, Mallya owns a diversified drinks empire, an engineering company and a chemicals enterprise, but no business has given as much personal anguish and financial distress as the airline has. Once the country's second-largest carrier, Kingfisher has never turned a profit since its launch in 2005. It has been grounded since October 1, owing to employee unrest. Aviation regulator DGCA suspended the licence after the airline failed to address its concerns over safety.
While the fortunes of Kingfisher have swung from celebratory to sobering, its problems are also enveloping other businesses. "In the past seven years, he has lost focus on the liquor business because of Kingfisher," said a former associate of Mallya. Whisky brands Royal Challenger and Director's Special, which once dominated their categories, are now languishing at third and sixth positions, according to him. "The liquor business still generates cash, but it has lost direction."
The Big Question
Yet, Dr Vijay Mallya seems to be in no mood to let go of the Airline. To many, his attitude is as vexing as it is perplexing. Vexing to his employees who are unsure about their future, his lenders whose money might have delivered better returns in a casino and a government which might have to eventually pull the plug on the airline. The question is also perplexing because all signs point to an airline as good as dead.
Kingfisher has accumulated debt of nearly $2.5 billion, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa). A revival would cost at least $1 billion, a humongous sum under the circumstances, according to the consultancy.
Capt. Shekhar Gupta [ Pilot, DIAM, M.Ae.S.I., MAOPA [USA] ]
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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.
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