Why India’s Dr Mallya is no Richard Branson

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India’s Dr Vijay Mallya is often described as the Richard Branon of India. His flamboyant lifestyle and penchant for pretty women leads some to draw the comparison. The other reason for the comparison is because Dr Mallya, like Branson, is so high profile in the aviation industry. But really the two men’s upbringing and approach to business are so different.

Branson is a self-made millionaire who over the years has invested relatively small amounts of money, by Mallya standards, but he has invested shrewdly and then turned that into a fortune.

Mallya on the otherhand inherited a fortune and is used to growing his wealth by basically out-spending the competition. He made India’s Kingfisher beer a top-selling beer by spending millions on advertising and marketing. In other words, he effectively bought market share.  

Now compare this approach to business to Branson’s. The perception is that Branson too is a big spender but the fact is he isn’t.

Take his flagship business Virgin Atlantic as an example. The perception is that Branson’s Virgin Atlantic is a large airline. But if If you look at its fleet size you will see that currently it has around 38 aircraft. That’s not very big when compared to the likes of SIA and BA. Branson of course would argue that his fleet may not be big in number but each aircraft is big in size. But there is no getting away from the fact it only has around 38 aircraft.

If you look at the amount of money Branson invested to set-up his Australian low-cost carrier Virgin Blue you will also see it was quite modest. Ten million dollars to be exact.

Now Dr Mallya’s approach to business is very different. Dr Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines has only been operating for a few years and its already got a fleet of over 100 aircraft.

He has tried to beat the airline competition by outspending his competitors but aviation is a different business to beer and not even Dr Mallya’s pockets are deep enough to spend his way to the top.

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2 Responses to Why India’s Dr Mallya is no Richard Branson

  1. gekush 20 May, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    Here we are talking about the “Titans” of the industry and the way I read the industry – you need to ba carrying a lot of clout for a healthy sustenance. Sir Richard Branson, an entrepreneur has obviously risen from the scratch but it took a lot of guts to challenge the big wigs of the industry especially starting up and challenging British Airways straight up. You need to have guts to venture into such an atmosphere and flair takes a back bench. Now we just get to read the success story and why are we forgetting this gentleman’s adventurous spirit and stepping into the virgin, unexplored territories. The knighthood bestowed upon him is a relatively smaller gesture where he should have been crowned. I have been a part of discussions here where people have vouched to do away with their working hand, just to have a small association with this particular profile; which speaks volumes of people’s perception and he is held in very high esteem. His launch in India was a runaway, spirited story which at times still does the round during the nostalgic moments. His launch of mobiles in Australia was a defining and amazing act of brash boldness.
    Coming to the Indian counterpart Dr. Mallya – you should acknowledge being a late entrant how he has endeared himself to the industry; from manufacturers to the competitors going green with envy looking at his flamboyance and flair. We all wish we could emulate this particular trait in a closed society as ours, not to discuss the bureaucracy and every other organisation breathing down your neck with stories which would could only be described as hilarious in the West. He is of a opinion that if you have it , flaunt it and in no uncertain terms he has clarified his position of delivering the best of a services to the masses who appreciated it and can afford it. Reminds me of the cult figures of “OSHO” whose name is still shuddered in India. Working around our typical “Babudom” culture and having the conviction to lift the projects requires not only vision but a foresight. The space reserved in the bastion of few elitist group and marking a niches for self is no crime and if the resources are there then utilise them. Lets not forget Sir Branson would also have to return the money as to launch the airlines services does not come cheap. These are individual plans and does not say much about the acumen.

    They both are mighty names in the industry and lets hope they continue their expansion with the same hunger and gutso. Let us wish them the very best to continue delivering the best services and constantly upgrading the standards within the industry. Sir Howard Hughes would have liked to have such people around him and we might have seen altogether a different era of Civil Aviation as we see it today.

  2. jbzoom 20 May, 2009 at 6:35 pm #

    Virgin Atlantic – 38 widebodies
    Virgin America – Around 30 narrowbodies
    Virgin Blue – Around 50 B737, 20 E-jets and 3 777 (v-aus)
    Virgin Nigeria – 6 narrowbodies
    Branson fleet heading for 150 aircraft…
    … without inheriting a brewery!

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