| Vijay Mallya with Katrina Kaif and son Siddharth at the launch of Kingfisher Airlines in Mumbai. (AFP)
Mumbai, July 29: Richard Branson and Vijay Mallya have such a lot in common, especially when it comes to accessories.
Both have the same sense of exaggeration in personal effects, which is fondly called flamboyance. To be surrounded by beautiful women is part of that quality. Now with Mallya officially announcing his airline last night, the head of the UB empire, like Branson, even has a fleet of aircraft at his feet.
Branson’s Virgin comes cheap — the airline, that is. Virgin without frills made low price its main asset, challenging the hold of established players.
Kingfisher Airlines will be competitively priced, no doubt, but what’s Mallya without swish'
To the new Indian budget flier already used to the sanitised light grey interiors of airbuses, Mallya’s airline will not offer “bus service”-type low-cost flights, but a “value-based” experience, meaning not out of reach.
The liquor lord has rounded up the biggest names of the Indian fashion and modelling world for Kingfisher’s flight. The insides of the planes will be done up by a dream team of Indian fashion: Rohit Bal, Tarun Tahiliani, Ritu Beri and Malini Ramani.
One snazzy set of uniforms for the airhostesses in red and blue — Virgin’s colours, too — is already lying stitched by another heavyweight designer, Manoviraj Khosla. Bal says the brief is to be “naughty”.
There could be a touch of leopard skin, Bal suggests. More seriously, he adds, the décor will combine sensuality with a home ambience and comfort in style with Kingfisher imagery — is he talking the annual bikini calendar'
Fashion will not restrict itself to furniture — there will be live shows, sometimes to choose an airhostess from among the travellers. Celebrities who are part of Mallya’s extended family could put in a guest appearance, too.
With Mallya around, who needs a brand ambassador, one might think. Kingfisher’s owner obviously does not think so, though there’s no more effective promoter of his business than Branson himself. He ran nude on a beach for an ad shoot.
Flamboyant he may be, but Mallya would probably not go so far. Starlet Katrina Kaif, who acted in Boom, will be the brand ambassador for Kingfisher.
His Airbus A-320s — Mallya is buying a dozen new for $750 million and leasing four — will offer “multi-channel audio entertainment with built-in channel selectors, in-flight auctions of lifestyle products and in-flight sales of branded merchandise at attractive discounts”.
There will be videos of your choice, from the latest Hindi films to India-Pakistan matches. Each seat will come with a screen attached to its back.
If that’s a first on domestic flights, wait till you hear this. “This practice of not serving alcohol on domestic flights is ridiculous. If Air-India can do it, why not domestic flights' I will approach the government soon for a licence, though I don’t know what it will have to say,” Mallya said.
Talking of brand fit what better slogan than “Fly Kingfisher, high on Kingfisher” — if the government permits. The possibility looks remote at this point. The airline is scheduled for launch in January.
Mallya isn’t losing heart. “If the government doesn’t say yes, we will serve Kingfisher water,” he announces.
Indian aviation, finally, gets a character.