The King of Good Times

Vijay Mallya is probably the best known businessman in India.  He isn’t the richest guy in the country (his Forbes estimated wealth of $1B put him at #45), but he is the most… whatever this is:

If you’ve ever been a tourist in India, you’ve almost definitely used one of Mr. Mallya’s products; he makes Kingfisher beer (actually he makes 48% of the beer consumed in India and a lot of the liquor) and owns Kingfisher Airlines.  He also publishes an annual calendar of ladies in bikinis, and owns a Formula 1 racing team, an Indian Premier League Cricket team, and Gandhi’s eyeglasses.

Additionally, he is a member of parliament and has nicknamed himself “The King of Good Times.”

About a year ago, I was flying Kingfisher and was treated to a video greeting from TKOGT himself.  Towards the end of the video, TKOGT invited passengers to email him personally at chairman@flykingfisher.com with any questions or comments.  At the time, I was considering writing a movie with a character based loosely on TKOGT.  So, naturally, as soon as I landed, I fired off the following email (the stuff within brackets is my present day commentary):

From : Vali Chandrasekaran
To : The King of Good Times
Sent : 20 Apr 2011 18:22:00:000
Subject : Request from an American Screenwriter [I know this subject line is lame, but I wanted to increase the chances of getting a response.]

Dr. Mallya, [The Indian Parliament website lists Vijay Mallya’s title as Dr., apparently because he received an honorary doctorate from Southern California University, a correspondence school in Irvine, CA.]

I am an American television writer spending the summer in India, researching and writing a movie. One of the characters in the film is loosely based on you, a titan of Indian business, the head of a giant lifestyle and entertainment conglomerate whose name is known to every Indian rich and poor and whose life captures the work-hard-play-hard essence of his brand. To add color and nuance to this character, I was wondering if I could spend some time shadowing you, seeing how you work and play.

Sincerely,
Vali

The goal of this email was to try an get an invitation to one of the Bangalore Royal Challengers cricket match afterparties.

One week later I received this response:

From : The King of Good Times
To : Vali Chandrasekaran
Sent : 3 May 2011 17:11:0000
Subject : RE: IssueID : 353089 : Request from an American Screenwriter

Dear Vali,

Thank you for your email of 20 April, for your greetings and good wishes. I am pleased to know that you admire my vision as well as my innate desire to give my best to everything I undertake. I must admit that I have always lived life on my own terms; I aim to be the best in everything I do, and this philosophy extends to every area of operation.

I note that you are a screenwriter by profession, presently in India to research and write a movie, and that one of the characters in the film is based on a titan of the Indian business industry. I therefore acknowledge your keen desire to spend some time shadowing me in order to add color and nuance to this character. While I appreciate the sentiments behind your request, I would like to share with you that since my business commitments involve a great deal of travel, it would be difficult to commit a time for such a meeting.

I wish you success in all your endeavors.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Vijay Mallya
Member of Parliament
Chairman & Managing Director
KINGFISHER AIRLINES LIMITED
A UB Group Company

The King, as it turns out, is also a gentleman.

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3 comments
  1. Pete Marino said:

    Don’t let it die Vali. Tell him you will travel with him. The stories you would get from this would be well worth it.

    • Vali said:

      I actually did follow up with the following email:

      From : Vali Chandrasekaran
      To : The King of Good Times
      Sent : 3 May 2011 17:38:0000
      Subject : RE: IssueID : 353089 : Request from an American Screenwriter

      Dr. Mallya,

      I’m honored and touched that a man as busy as yourself would take the time to consider my request and write a personal response.

      I understand how your many business interests demands, including the current IPL season, require a rigorous travel schedule, which can make scheduling very difficult. Would it make things any easier if I told you that I don’t need to sit down for an interview with your, nor do I need any personal attention or access to you at all. I just want to get a sense of what your life is like. So just being able to observe your surroundings during an IPL match or your demeanor during an investor call or the type of restaurant or party you prefer, anything like this, would be very insightful as I develop this character for my film. Since your travel schedule is packed, this doesn’t need to happen in Mumbai. I’m happy to fly myself anywhere at any time to get a slice of your life. And, obviously, if your office and I were able to work something out, I’d love to buy you a Kingfisher beer.

      Thanks again for the generous consideration and response.

      Vali

      Unfortunately, TKOGT didn’t take the bait.

  2. Josh said:

    I hope you at least CONSIDERED saying, “You call yourself King? Bah! You are no King.”

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