In his home country of India, he can hardly even go out to a restaurant without police and armed guards by his side, but Vijay Mallya is enjoying every minute of his fame and fortune. A billionaire businessman who is best associated with his popular beer brand Kingfisher, Mallya was thrust into the business world at the young age of 27. Today, he is active in everything from the alcohol and airline industry to Formula One, not to mention he is a Member of Indian Parliament.
Mallya was born on 18 December1955 in Bantwal, India. Son of Vittal Mallya and Lalitha Ramaiah, his father was a well-known industrialist who chaired the United Breweries Group and Kingfisher Airlines. Mallya attended La Martiniere Boys' College and later Calcutta University, where he followed in his father's footsteps and earned a Masters degree in Business.
As an only child, Mallya grew up in a very disciplined household. "My father was a very strict man," he recalls. "He was very wealthy, but he brought me up normally. He was a great stickler for performance and hard work."
Because of his desire to instill in Mallya a good work ethic, Mallya's father made him take a job working as a clerk in a small sleepy town in northern India called Shahjahanpur. "All I had for transportation was a bicycle," he said. "The nearest movie hall was 12 miles away." Earning just $40 per month, Mallya hated every day he worked at the job.
After he finished his studies, Mallya moved to New Jersey, where he found work with Hoechst, a pharmaceutical firm in which has father had a large ownership share. At the same time, he was learning the basics of his father's United Breweries Group. "He passed along many responsibilities in 2 ½ years, as he became more and more confident in my capabilities," says Mallya.
In 1983, however, when Mallya was just 27 years old, his father died of a heart attack. "He dropped dead at a party," Mallya recalls. "One week after he died, I was voted chairman and CEO of a public company."
The event forever changed Mallya's life, as he was forced to put his own dreams on hold. "I wanted to be a doctor like my grandfather," he says. "My father put his foot down and said, ‘No, he's going into business.' Did I choose? No, but I came to enjoy it."
At the time, Mallya was more known as a playboy due to his lavish parties and active night life. Some shareholders were concerned about how the young man would handle the responsibilities of running a major corporation. But the empire of different businesses he inherited from his father would turn out to be one of the best things for both Mallya and the businesses.
Over the next twenty odd years, Mallya would begin streamlining the operations his father started, and building it into one of the largest holding companies in the world.