Currently, in the US, there is a raging debate whether private sector is the panacea of all ills afflicting the country. Conservatives, who fiercely argue of exit of government from the lives of the persons, is equally vehemently opposed by Democrats who favor a wider involvement of Government to facilitate the private sector to deliver to the benefits of society.
The situation is complex.
I am pro private sector when it comes to delivering business services. I believe that government should not be in the business of business, but should be playing the oversight role, ensuring that the private sector plays by the rules and society as a whole should receive synergistic benefits.
However, I now realize that all my firm convictions are shaken when 'I' receive pathetic service from the private sector.
Take for instance my experience with Kingfisher airlines.
I work out of Mumbai, while my family lives in Bangalore. Every two weeks I make a trip to Bangalore to be with my family. I travel to Bangalore on Friday night and back to Mumbai on Monday morning. Considering that we work on alternate saturdays, you can imagine how precious these two days are to me and my family.
My key parameter in the decision of airline is the timing on Monday morning. On the one hand I don't want to get up very early in the morning and feel tired and sleepy the whole of Monday, while on the other hand, I don't want to go much late and be late to the office.
This is where Kingfisher comes in.
If you are a reader of any Indian Newspaper, the word used to describe this airline of late is 'beleaguered', with 'in debt' and 'in dire straits' thrown in for good measure. This airline is so ailing that the owner's house has become a resort of sorts for the creditors.
For me this airline holds an advantage. It has a flight that leaves Bangalore at 9.05 in the morning, which reaches Mumbai at 10.20 and this takes me to my office at about 11.00 AM. The timing cannot be perfect.
With all the risks attached, it is worth taking the risk of travelling in this airline.
But this time I have not been lucky. The law of averages have caught up with me.
I had booked to travel back to Mumbai by tomorrow morning flight. Today, sunday!!!, morning, the Kingfisher guy called me and sweetly informed that the flight have been cancelled due to 'Operational Reasons'. So I opted to travel to Mumbai by the 7.20 PM flight today.
You can imagine that this would have been hard on my family. I have not been home for the last three weeks and having finally managed to come home for a precious weekend, the same has been cut short by this airline.
It is hard.
Since it take about 90 minutes to reach the airport, I had to leave home at 4.00 PM. So effectively, I was getting half of Sunday.
I reached the airport at 6.00 PM. Now I have been informed that the incoming flight has not yet started from Mumbai and the flight to Mumbai will start only after the incoming flight arrives.
For all I know, the flight may even be cancelled.
This brings me to the point I was making originally. In other countries, with such a mess, the license of this airline would have been cancelled long time back. But not in this country. Here, we have an elasticity of policies in one direction. While the policies are highly elastic in favour of any sector, the policy actions are highly inelastic when the business gets into inefficiency and ideally should be wound down.
Like Mitt Romney told in the infamous NY Times article, it is better to allow the 'Beleaguered' airline to go through managed bankruptcy rather than limping along pathetically.
One of the reasons of this mess was that Vijay Mallaya, the high profile owner of this airline, does everything other than ensure that the airline flies efficiently. He has is hand in all sorts of nonsense, including modelling and IPL among others.
Mr.Mallaya need to know that when you run an airline, you have to focus on keeping aircrafts in the air. There is a reason they are called aircrafts, they belong there. Else they would have been called 'Landcrafts'.
Keep the aircrafts flying, Mr.Mallaya. Else get out and let some competent persons handle your airline.
Kingfisher (jestly called 'Kingfissure') airline is a classic example that we cannot let private sector do everything. Government has a role. A very important role.