V.G. Siddhartha had at one point, wanted to become a Robin Hood-like figure — take from the rich and give to the poor. Ultimately, he found a lack of wealth throughout his homeland of Chikkamagaluru, India made that mission futile. He decided instead, it would do more good to focus on building a business to create income and opportunities for his countrymen.
Siddhartha got into the family coffee business in 1993 and even helped change the country’s regulations on coffee trading to provide farmers with fairer prices. Eventually, he became India’s largest coffee exporter and opened the retail chain Café Coffee Day.
“For coffee planters, he was their ATM,” B.L. Shankar, a former Congress MP from Chikkamagaluru and long-time associate of the family told The Economic Times. “If a planter facing any trouble approached him, they could be assured of his help.”
Café Coffee Day grew into more than 1,700 locations and 60,000 vending machines spread throughout India, Siddhartha oversaw a vast coffee estate in South India, and he held investments in a variety of industries, including tech, timber, hospitality, and real estate. His net worth peaked at $1.2 billion in 2015, but due to looming debt, stagnant stock value, and an audit by India’s tax authority in 2017, Siddhartha found his empire in a precarious financial situation.
On Monday July 29, Siddhartha was last seen on CCTV getting out of a car in Ullala. After he failed to return after an hour, the driver of the car called and reported him missing. His body was found on Wednesday morning, July 31st in the Netravathi River, not far from a bridge where a fisherman had reported witnessing a man jump into the river on Tuesday.
Prior to his passing, Siddhartha had left a note to the board of Café Coffee Day, stating that he had failed to create the “right profitable business model despite [his] best efforts.” The note went on to say he was sorry to all those who had trusted him and that he had fought for a long time but that he could no longer take the pressure. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be suicide by drowning.
Siddhartha’s body will be handed over to his family and taken to Chikkamagaluru for last rites. He is survived by his wife Malavika Krishna, and two sons, Amartya and Ishaan.
The future of Café Coffee Day is still up in the air as the total amount of debt is still being investigated, however Business Today reports that the chain may end up being acquired by Coca Cola.