Amid mounting problems, corporate India seeks spiritual solace
NEW DELHI, India - With the banks deaf to his pleas for more money for his ailing airline and foreign investors yet to materialize, Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya has turned to divine forces for assistance.
The "King of Good Times", as the jet-setting billionaire is known in India, recently called in psychic guru Unnikrishna Panicker, who is said to be an expert at invoking the gods and seeking spiritual answers.
Panicker, according to the Mumbai-based daily newspaper DNA, conducted an elaborate "Ashtamangalya Prashnam" ritual at Mallya's mansion last month in Mumbai, aimed at conjuring up good luck.
"With no signs of his troubles abating, the Kingfisher Airlines chairman was reportedly advised to conduct this ritual," DNA said.
Kingfisher has debts pegged at $1.2 billion and is threatened with bankruptcy. Its market share has plummeted, staff have gone unpaid and many travel agents have stopped taking bookings on its dwindling fleet of aircraft.
But Mallya's appeal to esoteric powers to help with his predicament is far from unusual in India, where free-market capitalism is often infused with mysticism and astrology.
Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, often talks about spirituality as a "tool to enhance productivity".
The reclusive billionaire is known to consult astrologers and decide upon an auspicious time for the launch of any new business, as was the case with the Reliance Fresh convenience stores that started operations in 2006.
Kishore Biyani, a retail giant who pioneered supermarkets in the country, believes traditional Hindu mythology holds a number of management lessons for India Inc.
Armed with this conviction, he appointed mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik as his group's "chief belief officer" whose job is to express "modern management ideas through symbolism and vocabulary of ancient mythology".
Pattanaik exhorts workers to draw parallels from fables recounted in ancient texts like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata "which explain management concepts much better" than other case studies.
"Indian mythology says wealth must never be worshipped alone, she will cause strife," he told AFP. "Our mythology goes hand in hand with corporate wisdom."
Pattanaik says businessmen consult spiritual leaders because they know "being the richest man does not make you the happiest man".
In March, Infosys -- the country's second-largest IT company -- invited high-profile yogi Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev for an interactive session in Mumbai.
Sadhguru, who has twice addressed gatherings at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss town of Davos, talked about moral dilemmas facing the business world and the need to thrash out acquisitions with love rather than force.
"If I embrace you, you will become mine willingly and I will have the better use of you in every possible way," said the guru, according to a video clip uploaded on YouTube.
"If I conquer you I will still have you, but I have to sit on top of your head and make you do things and you will do everything possible to make my life miserable."
G. Vijayam of the Atheist Center -- an institution that promotes humanism and social change -- was bemused by the calls on heavenly forces, especially Mallya's attempt to use them to seek business solutions.
"By performing the ritual, Mallya was trying to convince people that his intention was good but the stars were not with him," Vijayam told AFP.
"He just wanted to take away everyone's attention from the real problems plaguing his aviation business and gain sympathy of people. It is like bribing the gods and escaping from your responsibilities."
Mallya's office did not return repeated calls asking for comment.
Vijayam warns everyone to steer clear of "fake" gurus who treat spirituality as a commodity.
"For them it is all about business and money. Profit is their god and their halo is a hoax," he said. - Agence France-Presse