It was a week of public anxiety for Vijay Mallya. He was frantically trying to save his empire, spanning businesses as diverse as spirits and an airline, from going under. He was in talks with investors to revive his floundering carrier, Kingfisher Airlines, and his relatively chipper liquor business, United Spirits. Mallya also had lots of explaining to do before irate shareholders and lenders. All indications point to an empire slipping away.
Analysts and industry experts have been predicting Kingfisher Airlines' demise for a year now. Why shouldn't they? The airline is saddled with around Rs 8,000 crore of debt. It has failed to pay salaries, taxes and fuel bills. Its market share is now just over 3%. Businesses with far lesser problems have collapsed in the past and Kingfisher, the most feckless of all Mallya companies, has showed enough signs it will meet a similar fate. Yet, miraculously, Mallya has managed to keep the airline aloft.