If you still love Kingfisher beer, then surely you will fly Jet Airways

Shivaji Dasgupta, Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, writes about how consumers tend to prioritise experiential disruptions when making brand choices over boardroom ethics or even illegal greeds

Shivaji Dasgupta
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If you still love Kingfisher beer, then surely you will fly Jet Airways

Perhaps the connect between the two brands is amply evident or possibly it is not. The largest point is that customers are simply not bothered about boardroom ethics, while being highly concerned about experiential disruptions.

In recent years, a vast number of corporate entities have had their report cards tarnished by misdeeds of top-notch management. While most matters are certainly sub judice, it is necessary to recap a few such instances. ICICI Bank and Chanda Kochhar, United Breweries and Vijay Mallya, Ranbaxy and the Singh Brothers, Yes Bank and Rana Kapoor - an unhappy tradition popularised by the Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju is now becoming rapidly viral. In two dimensions actually, both as disappointing precedence and investigative agency enthusiasm.

While these are poster boys at a Super Jumbo level, they also have a staggering number of regional peers. As well as global benchmarks, not least of who is Rajat Gupta, the Mckinsey chief convicted for insider trading. Elizabeth Holmes proved that ladies are indeed no exception in this great game of unfettered greed and one does suspect that the legions are only increasing. But to quickly cut to the chase, customers are simply not bothered by illegal greed, at a fundamental transactional level.

Kingfisher remains the best selling beer in the territory, ICICI excels in every sensitive financial domain, Yes Bank had effortlessly moved on to its next avatar and millions of Indians continue to breathe daily courtesy of the tainted Ranbaxy. Quite evidently, the effortlessly woke population of the day is oblivious to corporate brand reputations and this does merit further exploration. As to how the judgement is scathing when it comes to politicians and activism but is so wonderfully oblivious in terms of brands.

This leads me to the following line of thinking. Due to cultural narratives, middle class minds expect business folks to be devious and scheming. This has been fed as childhood stories, for instance, when the hero is always the teacher or the doctor or the policeman or even the social worker. Traders and their ilk were diligently vilified as not quite perfect social citizens. The Great Bengal Famine of 1943 has partially been blamed on unscrupulous merchants hoarding food grains, deeply felonious accomplices to Winston Churchill.

Adding fuel to the fire was the draconian income tax rates of the early decades post the departure of the Raj. A clear message being sent that the new nation was indeed hostile to wealth creation and those who dared to break the pattern would have to be otherwise broken. Legions of middle class parentage further insisted that careers that offered unquestionable stability were indeed preferred to explorations that were, ahem, speculatory. As collateral perception, nobody quite expected business folks to be saints, while often not being designated sinners.

At the same time, though, we were deeply conscious of unimpeachable rights in the context of personal consumption. If a brand was proven to be stale or dangerous, the critique would be severely damning. If an experience was ungainly, whether Indian Railways,  Airlines or Hotels, our fangs would be exceptionally vicious. A legacy of enforced self sufficiency provokes this pattern, as we are deeply accustomed to institutions, public or private, being coherent only about their selfish agendas.

This is the signal we send to our generational successors and indeed, in our conversational narratives. Exactly why we do not expect those in power to be even freelance agents of integrity, forget beacons. A larger indelible sentiment that makes us forgive the perpetrators of corporate offences, as long as their products and services fulfill our sense of value.

So when Jet Airways possibly flies once again, farthest from our consideration will be the arguable excesses of Naresh Goyal. Just as we fondly remember the kingdom of good times in our consumption of preferred beverages, oblivious to unsavoury imagery. This is an ownable Indian character,  explained only partially by the thoughts expressed above. While the juries are out, the customer judgement is loud and clear. If it works, that's all that matters.

Jet airways Naresh Goyal Vijay Mallya Chanda Kochhar Kingfisher Experiential disruptions Customers Bardroom ethics brands United Breweries ICICI Bank