VG Siddhartha: From Wanting To Join Army To Creating India's Own Starbucks, The CCD Founder's Story

Written By Digital Desk | Mumbai | Published:


  • CCD owner VG Siddhartha was found dead on July 31
  • Son of a coffee plantation owner, V G Siddhartha created the Indian rival of Starbucks
  • However, his letter alluding to pressures from a PE investor to buy back shares have left many questions unanswered

Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha's body was found on at the bank of River Netavati on  July 31 in Mangaluru. Son of a coffee plantation owner, V G Siddhartha created the Indian rival of Starbucks. However, his letter alluding to pressures from a PE investor to buy back shares have left many questions unanswered.

Coming from a family that has a 140-year history of growing coffee, Siddhartha initially dabbled in stock trading before actually setting his foot in the coffee business. He initially wanted to join the Indian Army but then envisaged interest in working as an investment banker in Mumbai after completing his Master's degree in Economics from Mangalore University. In 1984, he launched his own investment and venture capital firm Sivan Securities in Bangalore, and began investing the profits from his start-up to buy coffee plantations in Karnataka's Chikmagalur district.

Around this time, he also began taking interest in his family's coffee business. In 1993, he set up a coffee trading company called Amalgamated Bean Company (ABC) with an annual turnover over Rs 6 crore and over the years it increased to over Rs 2,500 crore. Inspired by a chat with the owners of Tchibo, a German coffee chain, Siddhartha decided to open his own chain of cafes in a country that had no formative cultural grounding in cappuccinos.

He opened Cafe Coffee Day's first outlet on Bangalore's upscale Brigade Road in 1994 with a tag line 'A lot can happen over a cup of coffee'. It's now the largest chain of coffee shops in India, a nation of tea drinkers, with 1,750 cafes in more than 200 cities, including outlets in Prague, Vienna and Kuala Lumpur. Coffee Day went public in 2015.

READ: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw condoles CCD Founder VG Siddhartha's death, Anand Mahindra & Sachin Bansal back entrepreneurs

Beyond Cafe Coffee Day

CCD also currently has 200 exclusive retail outlets selling his brand of Coffee Day powder all over South India. ABC is also India's largest exporter of green coffee. Expanding his business portfolio, Siddhartha also ventured into IT sector and founded Global Technology Ventures Ltd that identifies, invests and mentors technology companies.

The CCD owner also entered the financial sector with investment firm Sivan Securities Private Ltd. The company has three subsidiaries - Chetan Wood Processing Pvt Ltd, hospitality business Barefoot Resorts and timber trading - Dark Forest Furniture Company.

In 1999, Siddhartha was roped in by IT veteran Ashok Soota when Subroto Bagchi, Rostow Ravanan and KK Natarajan were putting together IT firm Mindtree. He was once the largest shareholder of Mindtree but decided to cash out. In March this year, he sold out his 20.41 per cent stake in MindTree to Larsen & Toubro (L&T), making close to Rs 2,858 crores profit. That deal helped him repay his debt of about Rs 2,900 crore.

Trouble for VG Siddhartha 

Son-in-law of former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna, Siddhartha found himself in trouble in September 2017 when the Income Tax (I-T) department conducted raids at over 20 locations linked to him. Siddhartha reportedly had been witnessing rising debts, especially in the last few years.

His Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd had seen net loss widening to Rs 67.71 crore in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018 from Rs 22.28 crore loss in the previous year. This despite revenues climbing 59 per cent to Rs 122.32 crore. He was reportedly in talks to sell his real estate venture Tanglin Developments Ltd to New York-based private equity giant Blackstone Group.

The MindTree sale had vastly improved his financial condition and the real estate deal would have further cut his debt. He was also in talks to sell Coffee Day Enterprises, where he held 32.75 per cent stake, to Coca-Cola for as much as USD 1.45 billion.  A letter by him to the CCD Board claimed that he was being pressured by "one of the private equity partners" forcing him to buy back shares, a transaction he had partially completed six months ago by borrowing a large sum of money from "a friend". The letter also talked about "harassment" by I-T Department official, who initially attached his shares in Mindtree. The I-T Department on its part had refuted the charges made out in the letter saying the signature on it does not match with the record available with it. "Company is professionally managed and led by a competent leadership team, which will ensure continuity of business," the CCD Enterprise said in a regulatory filing.

READ: Vijay Mallya cites VG Siddhartha's death to attack banks & agencies, says 'See what they're doing to me...'