"Vijay Mallya is interesting to mimic because he is a larger than life character." It was our pal Kunal Vijaykar holding forth about his latest assault: an uncanny likeness of the beleaguered beer baron on his TV show that aired last night.
"While doing make up for the character, I noticed that he looks ruddy, as if he's been partying hard. He also has a chin and jaw that slightly juts out. And he speaks with a proper English accent with a faint Bangalore lilt," said the talented mimic whose cast of characters has included a drop dead take off on Mayawati and Lata Mangeshkar.
Kunal Vijaykar and Vijay Mallya
As for VJM's unforgettable demeanour Vijayakar says, "It's also difficult to keep up with his ever-changing hairstyles and facial hair. Since no one has seen him recently, we decided to go with a look that he had been featured in most news channels with close cropped sides, a beard strip and low drooping moustache," says Vijaykar. One last thing, he adds, "Large dark glasses serve two purposes. One, he is always seen in shades and two, it hides my real eyes making the illusion complete." The result: VJM right down to his matching solitaires and blonde Mohawk! We like!
Bankers as visionary statesmen
A recent report that SBI's Arundhhati Bhattacharya is one of the leading contenders for the post of RBI Governor on the retirement of Raghuram Rajan later this year (his chances of getting an extension are said to be low), reminded us of a delightful anecdote that the charming Bhattacharya shared last week when she was felicitated at an event at the NCPA. To illustrate how deeply ingrained misogyny was into India's corporate mindset, Bhattacharya narrated how at the start of her career she had participated in an office competition only to be awarded a man's tie.
"I asked the organisers what I was supposed to do with a tie?" she said, "and they said they'd made no arrangements for gifts for women, as there were so few in the sector." However the story didn't end there: "I'm happy to tell you that very soon through my intervention, this anomaly was redressed," recalled Bhattacharya to an applauding audience. "And the next time I won the competition, I went home with a string of pearls!"
Bhattacharya is one of the few rare bankers with a worldview and a personality to match; someone whose expertise goes well beyond their immediate ambit and addresses larger issues that affect the nation. The only other two who qualify in this category (though their banking careers were vastly different from hers) are HSBC's Naina Kidwai and HDFC's Deepak Parekh. Bankers who are also thought leaders and influencers. No surprises then that under Bhattacharya's visionary stewardship, SBI started a two-year sabbatical policy for female employees taking maternity leave. A woman as RBI Governor? Nice!
The other Amitabh
He's the other Amitabh on the Indian scenario and his role is just as significant. We're referring to Amitabh Kant, the architect of the Make In India movement, said to be something of a marketing wunderkind and responsible for some of the country's most enduring tourism initiatives like 'Kerala: God's Own Country' and the 'Incredible India' campaigns.
Amitabh Kant with Ram Reddy and family in California
And perhaps like his other namesake, Kant's success can be linked to his unique upbringing, which afforded him a grounding of not only India's intrinsic heartland and what makes it tick, but Western sensibilities and sophistication, too. After all, both Amitabhs, Bachchan and Kant, spent their childhoods in adjoining towns of UP, one in Allahabad the other in Benaras. Both were the products of highly educated backgrounds (Kant's parents were academics and his mother was a Fulbright scholar who taught political science at BHU!); and both went on to receive exposure to the West during their formative years: Bachchan through his work in English firms in Kolkata and Kant as an undergrad at St Stephen's College, the Holy Grail of Western education in India.
The similarity doesn't end there either: both are lionized when they travel abroad. Kant who is currently in Silicon Valley, we hear, spoke to an audience of Silicon Valley's who's who, last night where he presented his fact-filled grand vision for India. And yes, both have a sizeable fan following in NRI India.
Hitching their wagon to a star
Such was the business climate of India until recently that entry levels into industry were almost impossible to breach. Unless one had a mentor or a family member who could open doors and ensure contracts, most entrepreneurs would not even get to the starting line. Which is perhaps the reason for the phenomenon we write on: that of the Family Patriarch under whose largesse an entire tribe of relatives prosper by being given valuable contracts for supply and distribution. So prevalent is this phenomena that there are certain families whose relatives have grown in to viable businesses that rival the original family's and are now run as almost independent viable establishments, on their own steam!
But however cozy this arrangement appears, there's also a downside. Two clans of relatives who profited from their principal family have found that their fortunes have suffered along with that of their mentor's. "The Mumbai-based brothers in infrastructure whose business has seen a dip due to large unserviced loans have passed along their fortunes to their relatives, too, who are witnessing a down turn," says a source. "The same fate has fallen on a prominent Delhi-based industrial group who were in the same business as their patriarchs." Moral of the story? Easy come, easy go. Or if you hitch your wagon to a star, it's likely to take a tumble if the star falls.