VG Siddhartha took homegrown coffee to the world
VG Siddhartha built an empire on coffee plantations, with utmost care.
His grandfather was invited by a British planter to grow coffee and that marked the start of a long and — at most times — lucrative association with the bean. That his ancestral house in Gauthahalli is more than 550 years old encapsulates the deep roots the family has put down in the Malnad district.
After the ancestral property was divided between Siddhartha’s father and uncle, his father bought 479 acres of land for about Rs 90,000. “That was the beginning,” Siddhartha recollected in an interview with TOI. “I kept buying coffee estates during downturns. By 1992, we had 3,500 acres.” They were India’s largest coffee exporters by 1995.
Anil Kumar Bhandari, president of India Coffee Trust (ICT), says with his strong roots, Siddhartha made bold bets overseas, opening CCDs in Vienna, Czech Republic, Malaysia, Nepal and Egypt.
Former Coffee Board chairman GV Krishna Rau said even after years into the business, Siddhartha took feedback seriously. When Rau visited some of the Fresh n Ground outlets and complained of chicory being mixed with coffee, “he instantly got this resolved”.
Raids by income tax sleuths two years ago on Cafe Coffee Day offices in Chikkamagaluru, did send shockwaves across the district, but it barely dented Siddhartha’s popularity.
On Tuesday, Cafe Coffee Day offices in Chikkamagaluru and Mudigere functioned as usual but a staffer said, “Senior staff left for Mangaluru. We have a very personal bond with Siddhartha.”
Siddhartha’s mother Vaasanti Hegde remained at their Gauthahalli residence. His father, Gangaiah, has been ailing in a Mysuru hospital for some days now.