Manu Rishi Guptha: In Defense of Vijay Mallaya

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Disclaimer : I only know of Vijay Mallaya thru information available in public domain. I feel sorry for the few of his
employees (who had to take their lives in distress) and their families.
I have come across more than a few people who used to tell
me with an accent, pseudo enough, that they only flew kingfisher
and took pride in it. The parties that Mallaya threw and the host that he was, made national news and was hot topic among the socialites during the man’s good times.
All his alleged friends turned critics who have now
denounced him and written him off – I personally feel, have neither been his
friends, nor ever accompanied him to the shoot of the famous kingfisher
calendar and maybe due to that have felt jealous enough to see him wrapped by
young damsels – perhaps often a third his age.
His nemesis was his blatant show of his hobbies even during
the times that were bad for the king of good times.
But lets get the record straight. We know that he owes some
1 billion USD approx. 6000 to 7000 INR Crores to the banks, and the banks
claiming some 1.3 Billion USD as
recovery of dues
interest. That he left the country in a hush was definitely wrong, perhaps his
own interest in General Knowledge was poor for he was a small ignorable fish in
the pecking order of defaulters even on the day he fled India.
But what a shame on the fugazi of a system of political patronage
in India that a well meaning entrepreneur cannot fail and irrespective of all
past successes one failed business decision brings down the edifices of success
and remarkable history.
If the promoters of top defaulting companies and siphoning
agents of this country can still continue to thrive and enjoy and use the
sloppiness of our legal system to wade their way through and still lead
luxurious lives – something in this nation isn’t right while the financial
systems and institutions of this nation are on their knees.
Essar has made a mockery of the system by trying
to skittle the NCLT process
 by throwing in financial googlies without
any locus standi. If they actually had the monies to clear off their debts, why
did they default in the first place. Shouldn’t just this statement be enough to
punish them for their deeds or intentions?
And yet we cant stop vilifying Mallya who was driven to elope
inspite of making infinite efforts to keep his airline afloat, to make an
effort after effort to persuade the government to change policies to make
airline business viable, to believe in his conviction to run a world class
airline and giving personal guarantees to raise debt for his beliefs.
Different strokes for different folks – is what the broken
political value system of this country stands for. Crony Capitalism, Promoter
Banker nexus (a’la ICICIdeocon) must have shaved a percentage points off our
If Mallaya is to be made a global spectacle of bringing a
defaulter back and hung out to dry, shouldn’t our government or the powers that
be, be putting atleast 5 dozen top defaulters behind bars and setting an
example immediately. Mallaya’s debt seems like a small speck in the ocean of
frauds and delinquencies in the Indian Banking space.
And yet big defence contracts worth tens of billions of
dollars are being doled out to the very people or their companies who are not
in a position to pay a couple of million dollars to their vendors in other
businesses and are declaring bankruptcies. Isnt this a sham of gargantuan
It would be interesting to watch how the top indebted
companies fare over the next decade as it is quite possible that most of these
are hiding behind the fine art of evergreening their debt. Uday
Kotak mentioned in his article of June 2018
that the NPAs of Indian banks
could well be over 150 billion USD and we all know that the real number could
be much much higher.
Give it to the Mallaya – atleast for academic interest –
that :
He brought order to Indian liquor industry and created the
worlds largest liquor company (by cases)
Took on some of the biggest global brands and had the
audacity to buy some top liquor brands globally.
It would be worthwhile to calculate the downstream taxes
paid by United Spirits and United Breweries over the last five decades.
Hubris makes people do wrong things at wrong times and
Mallaya was wrong to have called Enrique for his 60th while his
employees were suffering for non-payment of salaries. He should have kept a low
profile while his troubles were surmounting and demonstrated remorse and an
intent to resolve.
And fear after hubris made him to run away for he was
riding a tiger from which, he couldn’t get off.
I think more than a few times Mallaya has offered to pay
the entire principle back to the banks if he is given time to resolve. On the
one hand the financial and administrative machinery of this nation is taking haircuts
on delinquent loans to the extent of 30-50 billion dollars and on the other it
is hesitant to allow a guy to make an amend to the only mistake he made in his
life – of founding an airline.
For Mallaya – Come back, satiate the ego of the government
by going behind the bars for some time and take control of your businesses and
assets and genuinely say sorry to your ex-employees. You can still bounce back
as you are in a business that never suffers from an economic cycle or a
For Govt – Have a fair policy that’s similar for everyone,
allow this man to set his business straight, leave an impression that its
perfectly fine for an entrepreneur to fail and restart. By sending that
message, you would have set an example for an ocean of entrepreneurs, some of
who fail and want to succeed and keep trying.
Because say what you may – Mallaya was the  ‘king of good times once upon a time’.
Also Read on FinMedium:  Persistent Systems Ltd

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Manu Rishi Guptha

Manu Rishi Guptha

Manu is an Investor, Blogger, and a Professor of Fearlessness & Minimalism.
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