V.G. Siddhartha India’s Coffee King Photo: Namas BHOJANI
V.G. Siddhartha founded India’s largest coffee-shop chain, Coffee Day Enterprises, a $572 million-in-sales business (with more than 10,000 employees) that persuaded a country raised on tea to consume something else entirely. It made him a wealthy man, one of the richest in India and, for a brief moment after Coffee Day’s 2015 IPO, a billionaire. Siddhartha came to represent everything India dreamed of becoming: a modern nation where entrepreneurs could brew new ideas, changing their lives and the circumstances of everyone connected to them as a result. That’s a radical notion for a nation constricted by millennia-old rigidity around class, structure and expectations. Siddhartha was fully aware of this. “If I was born 20 years earlier, I would have surely failed,” he said in 2011.
In death, Siddhartha, whose body was found Wednesday morning in the Netravati River in an apparent suicide, will likely also come to represent grimmer realities: the limits of the Indian economic miracle, the constraints of creating a business within a developing market, and the alleged harassment by government officials, which would have been not unlike the corruption that disgusted him in the first place.
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