Dirty little things poor Vijay Mallya must do to stay alive

You are unstoppable, aren't you?

 |  5-minute read |   12-03-2016
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I see you Vijay Mallya. I see your potato face, your relentless jowls and swollen eyes. You look like a hedgehog that accidentally wandered into a Toni & Guy salon. I see you hiding in your British country home as you sit by the fireplace and listen to Yaani or Michael Bolton or whatever it is that people with fireplaces listen to.

I see you switch on the TV and watch your bloated head plastered on every Indian news channel. I see you take out your gold-plated mobile phone and tweet: "I did not flee from India and I'm not an absconder". There is only one problem with your argument: you fled India and hence are seen as an absconder.

Also read: What does seeing Mallya at a London event say about the elephant in the room?

People in India have always been captivated with your rodomontade. Ever since you launched Kingfisher beer (which let's be honest was a cockeyed king in the land of the blind), the good times started rolling. What a peak that was! I bet you got your pillows monogrammed and lay in bed reading Who moved my cheese? or Rich dad, Poor dad or whatever it is that people with monogrammed pillows read.

690illustration-2_031216023258.jpg Illustration courtesy: Viraag Desai

You threw lavish parties and bought yourself a canoe. You threw opulent parties and bought yourself a cricket team. You threw sumptuous parties and bought yourself a F1 team. You threw resplendent parties and bought yourself an airline. Suddenly you weren't throwing as many parties.

Also read: How Vijay Mallya outwitted ED and fled India scot-free

Richard Branson - the man you emulated in everything but business acumen - said that "if you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline". The airline industry is fraught with danger and requires an emotional investment because human lives are at stake. Your employees took great risks and stress that come with regular air travel. According to a 2012 letter by the former DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan, passengers flying Kingfisher too were taking risks unbeknownst to them as the airline compromised on safety during its financial crisis. He was promptly dismissed the next day.

Kingfisher wasn't the first airline to face financial troubles. Malaysia's AirAsia had debts upto 11 million dollars when it was acquired by Tony Fernandes in 2001 for a token sum of 50 cents. It is now worth 1.5 billion dollars and among the most successful low-budget carriers around the world.

Closer to home, SpiceJet had financial problems in 2014 which saw several flights cancelled. The airline's co-founder Ajay Singh took back control by infusing Rs 800 crore into the flailing company and made it profitable again in just six months. His restructuring plan has focused on improving the airline's performance, regaining customer confidence and boosting the morale of employees.

Mr Mallya, true entrepreneurs will leave no stone unturned to revitalise their failing ventures. They know that they have responsibility towards their employees because in any organisation the employees are the ones who bring an idea to fruition. But because you are pav-bhaji personified (only more greasy), you had no problems with betraying the trust of your employees even if it drove their families to suicide. You owe the banks 9,000 crores but only 300 crores to your former employees. Many of them could not find work in the industry again. Recently you stated that your only regret is that Kingfisher is not flying these days when the oil prices are low. It's the kind of sociopathic statement that makes one wonder if perhaps you were dropped as a baby.

I think you could never become a conscientious businessman because you inherited your company. Sure, you shook the right hands and made it grow exponentially but the fact remains that you have no idea how to deal with things that aren't handed out to you on a silver platter. If only you had selected your financial advisors as diligently as you had your air-hostesses then maybe you could have seen all of this coming.

Perhaps your lawyer's argument that there are bigger defaulters in the country holds water. However, even if the Ambanis owe the banks more, they have a lot invested in India and are unlikely to flee the country like yourself. They usually invest more carefully and keep a low profile (even though Antila looks like a game of Jenga that got out of hand). You, on the other hand, expect a bailout while wearing more gold than a Marwari bride.

Some applaud your shrewdness and the way you pulled political strings to make your escape. We as a nation love con artists because, while the hoi polloi struggle with their EMIs or have their tractors repossessed, people like you present a Technicolor hope that one can fool the system and jump out of the hamster wheel. The bigger the scam the more in awe is the public. The same people who think JNU is answerable to the taxpayer have no problem with you and your ilk of crony capitalists. You further no cause but your own.

What they don't realise is that your affluenza is admirable in the same way that cancer can be admired for its determination to wreck a patient's life. Your megalomania must be admired in the same way that termites can be admired for their resolve in causing damage to a bookshelf. You are unstoppable aren't you Mr Mallya? It's nice to wake up and go to the office isn't it, Mr Mallya? After all, your employees aren't going to exploit themselves.

I remember reading somewhere that the common Kingfisher has no birdsong; it only has a flight call. Since the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned you on March 18, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and wait till that date. Let's see whether you are an "international businessman" (as you claim) or the slack-jawed freeloader I have always suspected you to be.

Writer

Abhishek Sikhwal Abhishek Sikhwal

Abhishek Sikhwal is a Calcutta-based writer.

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