The night of 26th July was not an ordinary night. V G Siddhartha Hegde, the founder of Café Coffee Day, popularly known as CCD, was tossing and turning on his bed. The intense competition and the demands of creditors had taken their toll on the financial health of his home-grown chain of coffee shops which he had fondly named Café Coffee Day or CCD for short.
Finally, he saw a bright light at the end of the tunnel. He found a solution. His mind that was full of cobwebs of thoughts finally decluttered. He heaved a sigh of relief. He felt light-headed and went to sleep with a calmness he had not experienced for a long period.
On 27th July, he got up. The next thing he did was to write a letter to the Board of Directors and his employees stating –
“I have failed to create the right profitable business model despite my best efforts. I would like to say that I gave it my all. I am very sorry to let down all those people who had put their trust in me. I fought for a long time but today I give up; as I cannot take any more pressure….”
Perhaps coming out clean was part of the decision he had taken to get rid of the tormenting thoughts that were storming his mind. But this was the first part of his decision! The second part took place two days after this at a place called Ullala, where he had a rendezvous with his master in the Netravati River.
The story of Siddhartha is that of one born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
After receiving a master’s degree in economics (in business administration) from Mangalore University, Karnataka, he did a stint in the Bombay Stock Market and created Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company Ltd, to export coffee.
When the coffee business was liberalized, he dreamed of having his own chain of coffee bars. During that time, Bengaluru was also transforming itself from a laid-back pensioners paradise to a bustling place for youngsters in the IT industry. The climate was just right, and Café Coffee day made a debut and quickly made its presence felt in 1996 in Bengaluru.
He is reportedly the owner of 12000 acres of a coffee plantation in the country with revenue of Rs 43.31 billion. The outlets across the country are nearly 1850 with an employee base of around 20,000, and 7 subsidiaries. The growth of CCD was phenomenal.
But nothing on this earth is permanent. The monopoly of Café Coffee Day was not permanent too! Its meteoric growth resulted in the launch of bigger names like Barista, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and then came Starbucks, bringing their brands into the Indian market.
The competition was really heating up and hitting the profit margins of CCD. With the profits squeezing down, the creditors demanded their pound of flesh. As the saying goes, everyone willingly lends an umbrella in fair weather, only to take it back when you need it the most, in the rainy season.
Situations make or break a person. Siddhartha, the man who was on the boards of GTV, Mindtree, Liqwid Krystal, Way2Wealth etc. was no exception. It was in the news that recently L&T had purchased about 20% of the stake he had in Mindtree for a whooping sum of more than Rs. 3200 crores.
The first time I had entered a Café Coffee Day outlet was with my daughter. This one was at Samarth Marg, Vile Parle East, on 24 September 2018. Perhaps, we were a bit too early, but the coffee was good. The second time I was at an outlet in Mazgaon with one of my friends. Both the times, I enjoyed my time at those outlets. The places were cozy and good for nearly four people to huddle together and discuss plans. No doubt the tag line of CCD stands true – A lot can happen over Coffee! And sure, a lot did happen over coffee.
His last walk in Ullala, left a number of questions unanswered, which only time will be able to answer.
But one message that he left behind for us all is clear– Success is not Happiness.
Being Successful doesn’t mean you are Happy!
- Surendro Sahoo