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KINGFISH(ER)

 
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Recently, I was in Goa enjoying the picturesque beauty of the coastal city; though two months ago I re-converted to non-vegetarianism (after enjoying five long years of vegetarianism); I thought to enjoy the delicious Goan cuisine throughout my stay, specially the sea foods. While, trying different type of fishes I was told to taste King Fish (Surmai) one of the best variety of fishes available. Being a new bee I really enjoyed Surmai apart from pomfret, as they were the ones having less bones and easy to eat. I fell in love with the taste of Surmai and kept trying different varieties of dishes, whether it be Crisp Fried Surmai, Surmai Fish Curry or the Roasted King Fish, all tasted awesome. But what I am really going to talk about is not Kingfish but the ‘Kingfisher’. In almost all the restaurants I got a glimpse of Kingfisher logo, whether on the paper napkin box or a big cutout beside the bar, as usually you will find bars in all the restaurants of Goa. Coincidently I was residing near the huge ‘Kingfisher Villa’, one of the finest properties of North Goa. In the evening whenever I crossed through the mansion the yellow lights matching with the outside walls of the building and the shining golden italics letter of ‘VJM’ use to give it a different appearance, fanaticizing and inspiring me to have an inside look of the villa, though a commoner like me can only cross through the mansion like this but can’t feel it in person so I thought to take a roundtrip to the Kingfisher Villa and know more about its owner in literary terms.

Let’s start our journey, Vijay Mallya the flamboyant liquor baron and a wealthy businessman having personal wealth of around $1 billion, who use to remain in limelight because of his lavish parties, villas, automobiles, Force India, IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore, yacht and Mallya Collection Private Car Museum in Sausalito, got a latest reason of being in news  ‘Kingfisher Airlines’. Mallya born and bought up in Calcutta (present Kolkata) inherited his father’s business in 1984 and within two decades turned it into a multi-national conglomerate of over sixty companies. There was a time when this wealthy businessman use to rule the sky with its premier airlines ‘Kingfisher’ established in 2003 and by going a step forward in the segment, acquiring Air Deccan, a low cost airline, which was rebranded as ‘Kingfisher Red’ and which finally fell prey to financial issues in 2011.

His airlines business continues to remain in news for no good reasons and its debacle can be attributed to the lack of his devotion to the business, as apart from the liquor business he also breeds race horses, has a stake in a Formula 1 racing team, Force India, and owns two football teams, has interest in fertilizers business and also an engineering plant, amongst other things. But the point is that barring one, no other private Airline is in profit in the country, even the state run airline company is under huge debt, then what could be the reason for such a grave situation? Some will say that it was the ignorance on the part of promoter or his interest in too many business that resulted in such a severe turbulence but the fact is Mallya has tried hard to keep the airline floating by even pledging the shares of the UB Holdings of as much as Rs 9,000 crore, so one certainly cannot find fault with his commitment towards the venture. Can it be blamed to the suggestion of Accenture? who recommended the merger of the Kingfisher Airlines with the low cost Air Deccan, as after the merger neither Air Deccan, nor its business model existed, but again can it be called the only reason?. Now check the other side of the coin, it can be said that Vijay Mallya with all this has created a propaganda just to put pressure on the government to allow for the 49% FDI by foreign airlines, his indications  that a partner is ready to invest in his airlines can be taken seriously. It was the airline having more than 29% market share, 12 owned aircraft and many more leased ones and above all the charm which still remains in the mind, gives enough reason of its revival. If we talk about other private airlines none of them is in that grave situation as Kingfisher, and analyst might speak volumes that it will be worst option for any foreign entity to invest in it of up to 49%, as it will have to share in equal proportion the debt of around Rs 7000 crore and a loss of around Rs 5000 crore. But if the proposal gets the government nod and others don’t show any interest, Kingfisher will get the first mover advantage and it should, as it is the neediest one. Only time will say who would be the white knight to bail out the airline.

Now lets us talk about Vijay Mallya who does not think twice before flaunting his wealth, should he be given a reprieve? If the above talked scenario is true that all these are his pressure tactics then it can be not be ruled out as Mr Mallya is a politician, serving as an independent member of the Rajya Sabha and having a strong hold in the Indian corporate world.  But on the same time you will find n-number of people acquainted with Vijay Mallya who will say that he is down to earth, large-hearted person. He is religious too and is said to bless every aircraft he buys at the sacred temple of Tirupati, as well as devoting a large portion of his time to public service. Does all this beguile any sympathy for the Billionaire? Do we owe anything; does the nation owe him something? 

In 2004 at an auction in London he was the mysterious buyer of legendary sword of Tipu Sultan. The significance of the sword is that it was taken from Sultan Tipu’s bedroom by British forces during the Battle of Srirangapatnam in 1799.Tipu Sultan, who died in the battle, was known as the “Tiger of Mysore”; so whatever the reason may be (some said that it was political) Mallya was the person who bought our legacy and pride back. So he owes something from the nation in his hard time, does that mean a bailout to his beleaguered airline? No not at all, nobody with senses will support this kind of clemency, but we definitely owe him moral support, so that he can keep the airline flying even with foreign wings.

But my discussion should not end without talking about the ‘Kingfisher Villa’, the huge mansion located at Candolium beach in Goa, leading into the Arabian Sea; it really offers peace and serenity. Though, there was not much about the Villa in public, but it is said that this Portugese style Villa becomes a home of Vijay Mallya whenever he is not attending Parliament or his business parties.

 

 

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