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Sudden End To Kingfisher’s Reign

Kingfisher – popularly known as King of good times – was established in 2003 by the liquor baron Dr. Vijay Mallya, who named the company after his favorite beer. After a modest start in 2003, Kingfisher managed to quickly build a strong brand and high visibility, by becoming the first ever player in the Indian airlines industry to operate in the lucrative niche of premium domestic flights and rapidly growing its base of happy customers.

The company made all efforts to make the flight and the whole travel experience as luxurious and comfortable as possible. With its promotional line: “fly the good times”, services offered by Kingfisher Airlines were advertised as being full of thrills on both domestic and international routes. Every seat was equipped with a personalized In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system with Audio Video On Demand (AVOD), and passengers were given Merino wool blankets, a Salvatore Ferragamo toiletry kit and pajamas to change into. Also available were in-seat massagers, a collection of interactive games and a jukebox with customizable playlists. According to The Hindu, “Mallya himself was welcoming guests by appearing on the screens and asking them to write to him personally if they were unhappy with any service. He handpicked air hostesses, gave away goody bags to each passenger and the welcome at the airport counters had to be seen to be believed.”

Following its early premium strategy, Kingfisher succeeded in making its clients feel special. The company built a strong reputation as a luxury carrier and received numerous, prestigious industry rewards and prizes for innovation and customer service. By the end of 2009, Kingfisher was the largest passenger carrier in the country and had made its name as the Five Star Airline of India.

Within five years, Kingfisher had everything going for it: great brand visibility, loyal customers and a wide network of national locations. Dazed by its rapid success, the company decided to conquer international skies, before reaching its break-even point in its domestic business. What initially seemed like a convenient loophole, soon enough proved to be Kingfisher’s folly.

Failing to analyze new emerging operational and strategic risks, including tougher international competition and changing Indian airlines industry dynamics, the company incurred huge financial losses and in 2013 Kingfisher was forced to exit the Indian airlines industry.

How did Kingfisher loose its prime market position? Why was the carrier forced to exit Indian aviation industry? How did frequent strategy change caused Kingfisher’s demise? Read more in our case study: “Kingfisher: King of good times forced to leave the sky castle”.

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