Remembering Coffee Day Siddhartha at Vienna
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Remembering Coffee Day Siddhartha at Vienna

July 30, 2019

This morning as soon as the news broke about the Coffee Day King V.G. Siddhartha’s disappearance at the bridge of Nethravathi River near Ullal, my wife came running to me to break the news to the good old purveyor of news that is Yours Truly. Thereafter, I was glued to the TV for a time and the events were not unfolding as fast as I expected. I decided to attend to my personal work and then headed to the temple — the workplace. If ‘work is worship,’ then the workplace should be the temple. Let it be.

At the Office, our Executive Editor was thoughtful enough to place on my desk a copy of the letter supposed to have been written by V.G. Siddhartha to his Board of Directors and Coffee Day family.  More about it tomorrow under the title ‘Tale of Three Business Tycoons’ in my Abracadabra.

Browsing the letter, I understand that he was unable to take pressure from his equity partners to buy back shares and to oblige him, he had to borrow from his friend and pressure started building which he was not able to take. Apparently, pressure must have crossed the threshold. Naturally, he must have given up saying ‘enough is enough.’ However, I was unable to understand why there should be “lot of harassment from the previous DG, Income Tax in the form of attaching our shares on two separate occasions to block our Mindtree deal and then taking possession of our Coffee Day shares.” This despite filing the revised returns and this action by the DG led to a serious liquidity crunch to the company. More on this kind of situations tomorrow.

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I have been a great admirer of Siddhartha because of his uncanny sense of entrepreneurship with a volatile product like coffee. In the process he created history, probably,  to the extent that even an international giant in coffee trade and business like Starbucks had to wait and even keep waiting to break into Indian market in a big way. 

Surprisingly, Siddhartha is asking his addressees of the letter “to be strong and continue running these businesses with a new management.” Paradoxically, however, he himself seemed not strong enough to face the challenge. Interestingly he concluded, “our assets outweigh our liabilities and can help repay everybody.” I checked with one of my friends who had seen his signature and vouches that it looks like his signature.

Be that as it may, today I remember my visit to Coffee Day in Vienna, the capital of Austria in September 2017 along with my family. After visiting a concert  Vienna Mozart Orchestra costing Rs. 6,545 per ticket, we were hungry like wolves and were looking for a place where we might get some South Asian food. Lo and behold ! What we see? Cafe Coffee Day. In my Abracadabra dated 29th November 2017, I had written about this visit and feel sorry to reproduce it at a time we are all worried about the miracle to happen about Siddhartha of Coffee Day:     

However, there was compensation enough for us for that evening when we were taken by surprise seeing our own Cafe Coffee Day. “O, Siddhartha, son-in-law of our own former Chief Minister S.M. Krishna, here we come,” screamed each one of us in silence and walked in (see pic). For the first time in nearly 10 days, our mouth started watering seeing hot samosas with chutney, that we washed down with Indian coffee even as its aroma set our nostrils flapping like bellows. Thank you Siddhartha. You are also our country’s ambassador in a commercial way. While people like me spend country’s precious foreign exchange, you bring foreign exchange to our country…

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