VG Siddhartha was found dead on July 31, after an intense search operation which went on for 36 hours. He went missing on July 29 and two days later his body was found in the Nethravathi River, Mangaluru.
VG Siddhartha was the founder of the highly popular coffee shop chain, Café Coffee Day, which he founded in 1996. The letter, purportedly written by Siddhartha before going missing, states that he was being pressurised by a private equity partner and the Income Tax Department. He said in the letter that he failed as an entrepreneur.
India’s ‘Coffee King’
Siddhartha was born in Chikmagalur in Karnataka. Born in a family which has been in the profession of growing coffee since 1870, Siddhartha never really thought that he would open a coffee shop one day.
After the liberalisation of the 1990s, VG Siddhartha first thought of opening ‘youth hangout’ coffee shops. However, at that time, his friend, an IIM graduate wrote him a 20-page report telling him why the idea of selling coffee at the price of half a dollar will not work out. This made Siddhartha reconsider it and the idea was left as it is.
In 1994, while having dinner at a Singapore restaurant, he saw people surfing the internet while drinking beer. Finding this to be peculiar and very interesting, he thought of opening cafe which also offered internet. This time around again, his friend warned him against it, however, Siddhartha was strong in his resolve.
In 1996, the first outlet of Café Coffee Day was opened. Over the years, it gained popularity for becoming a preferred hangout or meeting spot for a wide range of customers. CCD saw young customers just enjoying time with their friends and it also became a spot for having business discussions.
As of 2015, there were about 1550 Café Coffee Day outlets across the world, employing close to 5,000 people. These cafes attract at least 40,000-50,000 customers every week.
Siddhartha, who was also the son-in-law of former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna, found himself in midst of a controversy in 2017. On September 21, 2017, a tax raid was conducted at over 20 locations in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Chikmagalur and he was accused of tax evasion.
At that time, a statement from the I-T department said, “The searches in a group involved in coffee, tourism, information technology and other areas concluded with an admission of previously concealed income exceeding Rs 650 crore. The detection of undisclosed income is expected to be a much higher figure.”
This year itself, Siddhartha sold his 20.41% stake in Mindtree to Larsen and Turbo for Rs 3,269 crore through a block deal.
Reports say that Coffee Day Enterprises’ total tangible assets, today, are valued at over Rs 18,000 crore.
After his demise, obituaries and last respects poured in from different quarters. The Logical Indian remembers the man who gave millions of people some really fond memories and also for inspiring scores of aspirational entrepreneurs.