Vijay Mallya and Kishore Biyani are among the best known entrepreneurs in India, but both of them are now going through hard times. Their response to the grave challenges that threaten their businesses hold great lessons to young entrepreneurs on how to handle a severe crisis and, more importantly, how not to. By Vivek Sharma
Vijay Mallya and Kishore Biyani. They are among the best known entrepreneurs in India. Both of them built leadership positions in their respective sectors, but have been facing rough weather in recent years. Their response to the grave challenges that threaten their businesses hold great lessons for young entrepreneurs on how to handle a severe crisis and, more importantly, how not to.
Mallya inherited the business from his father at a very young age. The UB Group was one of the leaders in the alcoholic beverages business, and a small player in select other sectors such as engineering. To establish his dominance, Vijay Mallya fought many bitter battles with Manu Chhabria who took control of UB's competitor Shaw Wallace in the mid-80's.
This long saga had all the ingredients of a potboiler. Chhabria's younger brother Kishore who was the managing director of Shaw Wallace later joined hands with Mallya, before Mallya took him to court for trying to take control of Herbertsons which then owned the Bagpiper whiskey brand. Following Manu Chhabria's death in 2002, Mallya finally achieved his ambition of taking over Shaw Wallace when the Chhabria family sold their stake in 2005.
After emerging as the undisputed leader in the alcoholic spirits business, Vijay Mallya benefited enormously from the consumption boom over the last decade. As business valuations soared, Mallya joined the world's billionaires list for a few years. Not content with the domestic market, UB Group acquired Whyte & Mackay of Scotland even as it forged partnership with global majors in the beer business.
Mallya entered the airline business with Kingfisher Airlines, promising to revolutionise air travel in India. To gain market share in the airline space, Mallya took control of low-cost rival Air Deccan. In the meantime, Mallya bought the Bangalore franchise in the IPL and later a Formula 1 racing team. Both ventures enhanced his larger than life, flamboyant image.
In contrast, Kishore Biyani is a self-made man who rose from humble beginnings to become India's largest retail industry pioneer. Kishore started at his father's small textile trading business, but soon ventured out on his own with garments under the Pantaloon brand. Within a decade Pantaloon grew into a chain of clothing stores and Biyani took his company public.