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V G Siddhartha, the son-in-law of former Karnataka chief minister S M Krishna, was born in Karnataka’s Chikkamagaluru district in a family that had been in the business of coffee plantation for around 140 years.
Siddhartha is credited with creating India's largest coffee empire — Café Coffee Day.
He was known to be an individual who effortlessly wore many hats — as a smart investor and a die-hard entrepreneur. Right after earning a masters degree from the Mangalore University, Siddhartha dabbled in the stock market. Since his 20s, he believed investment was a mind game. At 24 in 1983, he left the comfort of his home and travelled to Mumbai in pursuit of his dreams. That year, he joined JM Financial Limited in Mumbai as a management intern under vice-chairman Mahendra Kampani.
After a two-year stint with JM Financials, Siddhartha returned to Bengaluru to launch Sivan Securities, a stock trading company (now known as Way2Wealth). By 1985, he was a full-time proprietary investor in the stock market and owner of 10,000 acres of coffee farms. Subsequently, his childhood association with coffee prompted him to launch Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company in 1992, which emerged as a leading exporter of coffee. Later, he replicated the Starbucks model in India with the launch of his signature coffee retail business, Café Coffee Day (CCD), in 1995.
CCD today is India's largest coffee chain and is owned by Coffee Day Global, a subsidiary of Coffee Day Enterprises. CCD has around 1,700 cafes, around 48,000 vending machines, 532 kiosks and 403 ground coffee selling outlets.
In 1996, the first CCD store had opened at Bengaluru’s crowded Brigade Road, where coffee and an hour of internet surfing together cost Rs 100 at the time.
While Coffee Day was taking its time in expansion, other rival chains came along and took the concept national. In its new strategy, CCD would open its store right next to its rival. A 2015 Forbes list pegged Siddhartha’s net worth at $1.2 billion (Rs 8,200 crore).
Besides CCD, Siddhartha had founded a hospitality chain which runs a seven-star resort Serai and Cicada. Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro had recently purchased around 20 per cent of Siddhartha and Cafe Coffee Day’s stake in tech company Mindtree through block deal for about Rs 3,210 crore.
In 2017, V G Siddhartha had been accused of a tax evasion. Income-tax raids had been conducted at over 20 locations in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Chikmagalur by senior officers of the income-tax department of Karnataka and Goa regions.
In a letter dated July 27, 2019, Siddhartha had written to the board of directors and CCD family, saying he had “failed to create the right profitable business model”.
"I sincerely request each of you to be strong and to continue running these businesses with new management," said V G Siddhartha in his letter, adding that "every financial transaction" was his responsibility. "My team, auditors and senior management are totally unaware of all my transactions. The law should hold me and only me accountable, as I have withheld this information from everybody, including my family. My intention was never to cheat or mislead anybody; I have failed as an entrepreneur," Siddhartha wrote.
Two days after he went missing, his body was recovered from the banks of the Nethravathi river near Mangaluru in Karnataka. A police official said "everything" points to suicide, but nothing can be ruled out until the investigation is over.