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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Vijay Mallya's path to prosperity
In an interview for the BBC's Who Runs Your World? season, the businessman Vijay Mallya, one of the most influential men in India, says he does not believe India's millions of poor resent the wealth of rich people like himself.

Mr Mallya, the flamboyant chairman of India's biggest liquor business, United Breweries, was wearing his trademark diamond ear studs when he spoke to the BBC during a break from important negotiations in the business capital, Mumbai (Bombay).

United Breweries chairman Vijay Mallya

The producer of Kingfisher beers and a host of other brands was finalising the structure of his recently expanded brewery and spirits empire, now the third largest such company by volume in the world.

"I think that the poorest of the poor... look up to wealthy and successful Indians with some degree of respect and pride," Mr Mallya said.

"They take pride in the success of fellow Indians as well."

Many young Indians see Vijay Mallya as a role model.

His other major venture, a budget airline, has seen him compared to Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines.

But he is not just a businessman. Mr Mallya is also a member of the upper house of the Indian federal parliament.

'My company contributes'

As a politician and a businessman, does he think enough is being done to help those who have not benefited from the fast-growing economy?

"The amount of revenue our company contributes to the state is enormous and could be extremely profitably and effectively used for the benefit of the poor," he said.

"There is a huge amount of resource allocation to farmers and where farmers are unable to pay their debts, their loans and the interest on those loans are actually forgiven.

Kingfisher beers
Mallya is behind Kingfisher beers and a budget airline
"Some taxpayers complain about it. But nevertheless the focus is on improving the quality of life for the poorest of the poor."

Vijay Mallya inherited his father's business when he was 28 and has spent more than two decades building it into the multi-billion-dollar enterprise it is today.

Two-thirds of India's 1.2 billion people live in poverty. Caste distinctions and lack of opportunity condemn many to stay poor throughout their lives.

So doesn't his charismatic lifestyle - which includes a personal Boeing jet - grate on those who have not benefited from India's corporate-driven boom?

"Our culture in India is not a culture where we grudge each other," he says.

"It's not a culture where we are jealous of each other.

"I think we are a very respectful race, we tend to be somewhat subservient at times, but that is the beauty of India."

'Future in my hands'

Subservience is not a word associated with India's high-flying liquor king.

Asked who runs his world, he said:

"I run my own world, because I very firmly believe that my destiny, my future is in my hands and I don't want to blame anybody else for the path that I take.

"And obviously I hope that everybody runs their own world, otherwise God help them."


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