V G Siddhartha, founder of the Cafe Coffee Day chain who was found dead on the banks of a river near Mangaluru on Wednesday, had set out for Mumbai in early 1980s with Rs 7.5 lakh he had borrowed from his coffee planter father. By 1985, the youth from Mudigere in Chikkamagaluru district owned more than 10,000 acres of coffee farms in Malnad region. Of this, only 500 acres were his ancestral property.
The workers in his coffee plantations remembered him as a considerate and helpful employer.
Dasappa, who has spent 35 years in the Chethanahalli estate, said, “I have seen Sidaddartha since his childhood days. He was humble and treated people with respect. He always supported us.”
Kavitha Bai, who along with her family has been working in the estate for 25 years, said, “My children are studying in good schools thanks to Ayyavaru (Sir). He always emphasised the need for education. He provided jobs to children of his labourers in his companies across the world. If anyone needed financial assistance, he would always lend a helping hand.”
Another estate worker remembered Siddartha as a generous and kind person who treated his staff like family.
Siddhartha was known for his philanthropic work in Mudigere and had backed many development programmes in the area. According to an Amalgamated Bean Coffee (ABC) company employee, Chikkamagaluru town does not have a multi-speciality hospital, so Siddhartha had wanted to build one in his father’s name, where all services would be provided free of cost to people from Malnad region.
“He had a very close relationship with coffee and wanted to take Karnataka coffee to global markets. He succeeded in doing so,” said Halappa Gowda, who has known the family for long.
Siddhartha’s family has been running coffee plantations for more than 140 years in Malnad region. He was the only son of Gangaiah Hegde, a freedom fighter, and Vasanthi.
Senior Congress leader B L Shankar attributed his close friend’s success to his “own ability and determination to build such a huge business”. Shankar, who is from the same village as Siddhartha, added: “He took Karnataka coffee to the international level and gave employment to many. Still, he remained a very humble person …”