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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mallya leaves all in ‘high spirits’

What happens when Vijay Mallya delivers an extempore speech in a dry State? It leaves every one in ‘high spirits’, obviously.

The charming liquor baron, had young aspiring managers gathered for IIM-A’s Confluence stand up, clap and cheer out loud, the minute he entered the auditorium. It was his first ever visit to the city and he spoke of his own making, being accountable for oneself and how important it was to think out of the box.

Infused with humour and tongue-in-cheek remarks (‘‘The difference between others and me is that I am more shameless’’), Mallya’s address was, as expected, the most entertaining one at the Confluence. ‘‘I love visiting campuses and truly believe in young blood,’’ was how the UB group chairman opened his innings.

‘‘Let me begin by saying what I shouldn’t,’’ he said eliciting another round of applause. Though born into a wealthy family, Mallya said, he ‘‘learnt what it meant to shed comfort and illusions of a family of haves and get a feel of have-nots’’ when he ‘‘was sent to Barauni and Shahjahanpur’’ and had to toil for Rs 400 per month. But the real task came in when he was one fine day, after his father’s death, made the UB group chairman. ‘‘I was written businessmen...and dubbed flamboyant because I loved fast cars, wristwatches and parties. But then, at 20, should I have attended Swami Chinmayananda’s bhajans?’’ he said continuing, ‘‘ And then suddenly I am called a ‘playboy’. Everyday, every newspaper said the future of UB is doomed.’’

Gradually, coming to terms with the hard fact that he had ‘‘no elder to turn to’’, ‘‘I told myself I gotta do it and I will do it my way!’’.

He said one has to invite oneself to bear the responsibility and urged students to trust instincts and have the courage of conviction. He said B-schools only launch one into the business world, but one has to try and create an experience that’s one’s own. ‘‘Even under most difficult circumstances, be it through family, government, policies, workplace, there’s always a way to go ahead. And the way is to think out-of-the-box!’’ Talking about the genesis of Kingfisher, the ‘‘Indian superbrand’’, he said that having sold brands ‘‘that never excited me’’, I got my inspiration when I ‘‘stumbled upon Kingfisher in the company’s archives.’’ ‘‘The cheekiness of a bird going near water and plucking fish made sense to me. And I finally got a brand that had life in it,’’ he said. Even Kingfisher Airlines was the result of thinking out-of-the-box. ‘‘It is very difficult for Jet Airways to replicate the inflight entertainment we have in our aircraft. Superior value at an affordable price is how we’ve positioned ourselves,’’ he quipped.

He even took a dig at Chief Minister Narendra Modi saying, ‘‘I told him please allow alcohol, you’ll earn two-and-half-thousand crores by mere excise revenues. You could use it for poverty alleviation, improving infrastructure, etc. But he said ‘We have to follow principles of Mahatma’. And he calls himself progressive!’’

Managing business was never easy especially when there are ‘‘these silly arguments from excise departments’’! ‘‘Once our licence got cancelled because DD telecast a cricket match held in Sharjah stadium which had our banners all around. And the argument was that the entire Delhi saw it! I told them go prosecute Doordarshan, why me!’’ he said triggering off a roar of laughter.

He said it was important to never get cast in a mould and stand out in the crowd. ‘‘Don’t trust mere pieces of paper and calculations. Believe in your judgement. And the judgement stems from self-confidence which comes only when you are accountable for yourself,’’ Mallya signed off in style.

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