The occasion was the semi-final match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and New South Wales in Bangalore, during the just concluded CLT20 tournament. Vijay Mallya, as always, was cheering his team RCB from the pavilion. Then one of his close confidants, came and told him that Subrata Roy Sahara was also in the stadium watching the game. Vijay Mallya sent Roy an SMS inviting him to a drink after the game. Subroto Roy accepted.
This is what transpired between Vijay Mallya and Subroto Roy Sahara in the Club House of Chinnaswamy stadium that night.
Vijay Mallya (VM) : Hey dude ! How are you ?
Subrata Roy Sahara (SRS) : Sahara Pranaam Mallya-ji.
VM : So what brings you here Subrotoji ?
SRS : I am used to being addressed as Saharasri.
VM : Oh Sorry ! Yes, yes Saharasi. Just like my Guru wants to be called as Sri Sri.
SRS : It’s OK.
VM : How come you are here to watch an RCB match. Your team Pune Warriors, I don’t think made it to the Champions league.
SRS : I just came to cheer my boys. You know, Sahara sponsors the Indian cricket team. The Indians in RCB team are my boys also.
VM : That’s right, I forgot. You are not doing too badly as a sports sponsor.
SRS : We have always been there for India. When ITC left the Indian cricket team in the lurch, we chipped in and became the sponsor in 2001. We recently beat Bharti to be the sponsor of the Indian team till 2013. We are also sponsoring a lot of Indian athletes for Olympic sports. You know, we sponsor the Indian hockey team also. For Sahara nation comes first. Hockey is our national sport, so Sahara is associated with it also.
VM : I wonder as a Bengali, how come you are not into football. You must be knowing that both the top teams in Bengal , Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are sponsored by us.
SRS : Mallya-ji I am as much a Bengali as you are. You are a Non-Bengali who grew up in Kolkata and I am a Bengali who grew up in UP.
VM : Khoob Bhalo ! So, how come you bought an IPL team in the second round of auctions ?
SRS : I was never keen on IPL. Just that my son Sushanto wanted it. You know boys will be boys. They need these toys.
VM : Exactly. I also bought RCB for Sid. If I am the King of Good Times. He is the Prince. BTW, Saharasri, how is Amar Singh, our common friend.
SRS : Mallyaji. I have many friends. Amarji is one of them. I like to help people. When Amar said his bade-bhaiya Amitji was having problem with money, I offered help. I don’t like to talk about it. We have friends in all political parties. In our humble house in Lucknow all are welcome.
VM : I like your philosophy Saharasri. I also have a lot of political friends. Because of all the glamour surrounding us, I get too closely identified with some. That’s a problem.
SRS : Talking about problems Mallyaji, I hear that your airlines is in trouble. In fact, I was to fly back to Delhi, this evening. Because your Kingfisher flight got cancelled, I am here, chatting with you.
VM : You know airline business, having run it yourself. We thought it was an easy business. I had tied it up neatly. I acquired Deccan. I also made a pact with Naresh Goyal’s Jet. I knew, Indian Airlines will never be much of a competition. For clearances and preferential routes, our friend Praful was there. I forgot to consider IndiGo and Spicejet. We also got royally jacked by the crude oil price increase. We are having bit of a cash flow problem there.
SRS : Cash flow problem for the liquor baron of India. Kya bol rahen hain aap ?
VM : Chhodiye Saharasri. Some things are better not discussed in open. So Saharasri, I hope you will be coming for the Formula 1 in NOIDA this month. Isn’t it great, we are having F1 right here in India.
SRS: Hopefully yes. In fact, I had been wanting to talk to you about this F1 team. My younger son Seemanto is very excited about car racing. Ever since I have bought an IPL team for Susanto, Seemanto has been asking for a F1 team. After some initial enquiries, he tells me that it was not easy to start an F1 team. Now you tell me, what your experience has been ?
VM : Honestly, it has been a big struggle Saharasri. We bought a lowly placed team Spyker and renamed it Force India, five years ago.
SRS : I like the name very much. But normally, you keep a liquor brand name like Royal Challenge or Kingfisher to do some surrogate advertising. How come you chose Force India ?
VM : Excellent question. You know, I like to build brands. If you have heard me on the Kingfisher Airlines TV screen. I thought, I will first make a great F1 team brand Force india, then I can always launch a whisky or a beer in that name.
SRS : Tell me something about the struggle.
VM : In the last three years, we are always in the bottom of the race. We have had problems with the car. We have had problems with hiring good drivers. It is a very expensive business Sahararasri. I had grossly underestimated it. We are now struggling with the budgets. Though, this year our team is doing much better.
SRS : Mallyaji, I realise that making a new F1 team is very expensive and time consuming. I am also keen on giving something to my son. Are you open for a partnership ?
VM : Wow ! Why not ? I think, though our personalities are very different, we seem to share a passion for sport. I also need some immediate cash to take my team to the next level.
SRS : Excellent ! Then that’s a deal. I will send my team to work out the details of valuation, pricing etc. For me, business is a matter of heart and not head. I think we share a good chemistry. Let us go for this partnership. Just a request Mallyaji, could you please add the name Sahara to the F1 team. You know, it is not for me. Sahara is a big parivaar. Everyone loves it.
VM : Fantastic ! Sahara Force India, it will be. Well in time for the Indian F 1.
The deal got concluded. No thanks to the cancellation of the Kingfisher flight.