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A lot did happen over coffee & he didn't fail: Ode to Coffee King VG Siddhartha

Chaitra Anand

‘I am very sorry to let down all the people that put their trust in me,’ were some of the last heart-wrenching words reportedly written by late VG Siddhartha, the founder & chairman of Café Coffee Day.

Certainly, an entire generation of coffee lovers and millennials in India, and possibly even globally, would beg to differ even as the news of his alleged suicide sinks in.

Contrary to his last words, VG Siddhartha’s brainchild ‘Coffee Day’ became a standard of trust for all the people who chose to believe in the product and spend some of the best times of their lives in Coffee Day outlets spread across various Indian cities.

Much before Bangalore came to be known as the pub capital of the country, before microbreweries became hubs of socialising, and decades before Starbucks even considered presence in the Indian market, it was Café Coffee Day which ruled the roost and defined modern day ‘networking’ in India.

Since its inception in 1993, Coffee Day became synonymous with socialising. From collegians to aspiring entrepreneurs to highway travellers and even retired senior citizens, everyone has a fond memory of sipping a ‘cuppa’ at a neighbourhood Coffee Day outlet.

This coffee chain rapidly became everyone’s favourite hangout for coffee and conversations and its popularity remains unshaken even after nearly 3 decades.

At a time when a piping-hot cup of filter coffee at the cost of about Rs 5 would suffice to satisfy the taste buds of an authentic south Indian coffee lover, Coffee Day managed to disrupt the market by not only introducing premium coffee to the Indian consumers, but also a global experience that was here to stay. Coffee, as India knew it, was about to change forever.

College students looking to go on that first date or simply ‘hang out’ found a friendly, classy, safe atmosphere for meet ups at CCD.

Entrepreneurs and businessmen couldn’t think beyond CCD for business meetings and discussions over a cappuccino and even sealed some of the best deals over a latte. Even marriage alliances were arranged at Coffee Day as it was a neutral location for families to meet.

The older generation too was intrigued by this new lifestyle that everyone was subscribing to. You could often spot a group of senior citizens hobnobbing and bonding over cold coffee and frappe. They began experimenting away from the traditional cup of filter coffee of a local ‘darshini’ (a common name for a South Indian fast-food joint).

But the most significant and much-required undertaking came in the form of outlets on certain highways in Karnataka. Albeit these were franchises of the original Coffee Day Global, a weary highway traveller could easily locate a Coffee Day outlet at convenient intervals; whether to pick up a snack on the go or use their well-maintained hygienic facilities, it was a boon to spot the familiar red and white sign board after covering miles.

With the knowledge that there is a dependable coffee shop enroute, tedious highway travel, intercity/ interstate commute became more comfortable.

Some of the biggest coffee chains such as Barista Lavazza and Costa Coffee failed to compete with as much confidence where a comparatively humble CCD built a relationship of trust and camaraderie with its consumers.

And this was undoubtedly a result of one man’s innovation and vision— VG Siddhartha.

Yes, his final statement would be convincing if his idea, his concept had failed, but as an entrepreneur Siddhartha did not fail. Having created more than 30,000 jobs in a job-parched economy, he will forever remain one of the most successful entrepreneurs emerging from India and establishing a globally recognised brand.

The truth about what transpired in the final days and moments of VG Siddhartha’s life may never be revealed and we may never know why he met with such a tragic end despite being known as one of the wealthiest and influential businessmen in the country.

And as the days roll by this incident will be forgotten. But the experience that he created for the Indian coffee consumers will forever be a significant part of many lives. Because a lot did happen over coffee!

Have a favourite memory of Café Coffee Day? Want to express your condolences? Considering a conspiracy theory behind the death of CCD Chairman VG Siddhartha?

Do share in the comments section below.