V G Siddhartha’s untimely death is a reminder that financial pressures can drive even the richest to suicide
Every highway warrior in India would know of Cafe Coffee Day (CCD). On the road, it was a place where you could not only find a hot cup of coffee but also hygienically prepared food and clean toilets. No matter where you travelled in India, a CCD outlet made for a quick break. Similarly, for teenage couples in cities and small towns across India, CCD became a place where they could talk sweet nothings. Even for office workers in India’s major service centres, CCD was a place for meetings as well as evening catch-ups. There is no doubt that V G Siddhartha, the son of coffee plantation owners from the Chikmagalur belt, had created a huge brand and a massive business that could potentially become a massive retail chain with its network of stores across the country.
Yet, Siddhartha will also be remembered as a man who jumped to his death off a bridge in Mangaluru and in his purported suicide note blamed harassment by tax officials and private equity firms. This proves that financial pressures can drive even the wealthy and well-connected to take the extreme step. If Siddhartha felt unfairly persecuted, the allegations in his letter have to be thoroughly investigated, even though the Income Tax Department has responded with a rebuttal. But was a particular Income Tax official trying to push through a corporate buyout by putting pressure on Siddhartha? Also, many private equity deals are essentially Faustian deals and Siddhartha’s CCD might have been extremely popular and one of India’s biggest brands but it was a share market dud, losing over 40 per cent of its value over the past five years even before his suicide. Hopefully, the fact that Siddhartha was an internationally-known investor and the son-in-law of S M Krishna, the former Karnataka Chief Minister, should make the authorities realise that his suicide was no ordinary one. It will have a dramatic ripple impact on India’s ability to not just attract foreign investors but also with domestic investors who actually put up the huge majority of investment in the Indian economy. This suicide also brings to the fore the very important question of mental health. Many individuals take the extreme step of taking their own lives because they feel helpless and lonely. India has a dire need of training more mental health professionals who can talk to people to urge them to step away from the ledge. A high-profile suicide might even have the impact of forcing several other individuals under financial stress to take the extreme step. This must be avoided and messaging by the government and by mental health professionals at the current time is very important.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer