about 12 months ago
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The alleged suicide of CCD founder, V.G.Siddhartha has shocked one and all because, at one time or the other, we all have been to one of his coffee shops. There is undeniably a sense of pride that CCD is a pioneer when it comes to India’s very own coffee chain. Thus his disappearance has hit home hard.

As someone said, “first farmers committing suicide and now an entrepreneur like Siddhartha, where are we heading?”

The direct cause is undoubtedly one’s own failures and inability to handle stress.  Yes, the Govt’s fault is that it is not able to stem systemic failures and harassment by IT officials and therein lay the entire story.

Sidhhartha has blamed “pressure from 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.  He cited “tremendous pressure” from other lenders lead to him succumbing to the situation.

He said, “There was a lot of harassment from the previous DG income tax in the form of attaching our shares on two separate occasions to block our Mindtree deal and then taking position of our Coffee Day shares, although the revised returns have been filed by us. This was very unfair and has led to a serious liquidity crunch.”

There is no redemption for the guys who put the kind of pressure they did on him and somehow, this did not even shock us; this knowledge that the IT officials put pressure was taken matter-of-factly by us because we have grown up and continue to exist in this vicious environment. This is the systemic failure and something which the Govt should take the blame for. The inability to clean up the system, despite talking so tall about demonetization has a ring of hypocrisy. When crony capitalism thrives in the country, this “harassment” does not come as a shock.  

Why is it that no one talks about the persistence of corruption in the system? The practice of Govt officials taking money for everything, putting pressure to extort money continues to exist and this time around it is with more gumption and complete disregard for the consequences because they know they will never get caught.

Such pressure tactics strangulates the spirit of entrepreneurship; on one hand a man like Siddhartha who created so much employment and introduced us Indians to the concept of a coffee lounge succumbs to pressure by lenders and IT officials. On the other hand, you have people like Mallya and even Anil Ambani who keep on borrowing money without adding directly to the existing employment.

This tragedy of Siddhartha highlights the elevated levels of stress across the system wherein the management is constantly under scrutiny to deliver results and promoters are subjected to immense pressure from PE funds, bankers, lenders, stakeholders, tax authorities. The tragedy here is that there is no fraud here yet financial stress killed one of the promising entrepreneurs of India.

Talking about no fraud, we will have to wait for more details to understand the kind of pressures Siddhartha underwent and why; in his letter, his says, “I am solely responsible for all mistakes. Every financial transaction is my responsibility. My team, auditors and senior management are totally unaware of all my transactions. The law should hold me and only me accountable, as I have withheld this Information from everybody including my family. My intention was never to cheat or mislead anybody, I have failed as an entrepreneur. This is my sincere submission, I hope someday you will understand, forgive and pardon me.”

What are the mistakes he talks about? What did he do while keeping his auditors, team and senior management in the dark? 

It is indeed a dark day today and this tragedy will continue to resonate till the next one happens. A judicial inquiry should happen and the IT officials responsible should be booked for murder. But if the Govt wants to demonstrate that it cares, it needs to work on laws to ensure such pressure tactics never happen again. That’s asking for too much at a time when a leader blatantly rapes a minors and wipes out the victim’s entire family and the party does not expel him even when an FIR on his name is lodged.

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