The sudden disappearance of Café Coffee Day (CCD) founder V G Siddhartha has left everyone — business peers to employees to family — in a state of shock. It is now being speculated that he might have committed suicide because of financial stress.
The businessman, who lived in Bengaluru, went to Kotekar in Mangaluru, a distance of about 350 km on Monday evening. Around 7 pm, he stopped his car at a bridge over the Netravati river on the outskirts of the town, and asked his driver to come back after a while. When the driver returned, he could not find Siddhartha. He alerted Siddhartha’s family and the police, who launched the massive search operation.
As the news broke in the early hours of Tuesday, high-profile dignitaries made rounds of the Sadashiva Nagar residence of S M Krishna, former Karnataka chief minister and a former Union minister. Krishna is Siddhartha’s father-in-law.
Politicians cutting across party lines, including Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, Congress leader Siddaramaiah, D K Shivakumar and B L Shankar, and Janata Dal (Secular) leaders Deve Gowda and H D Kumarswamy came to offer moral support.
“He (Siddhartha) is very fine individual. They are a very decent family. S M (Krishna) is in shock. They are all in shock,” said Devyani Hinshaw, a family friend.
Senior Congress leader and former minister D K Sivakumar tweeted: “I received a call from him on June 28, asking if we could meet up. It’s unbelievable that a courageous man like him would resort to this. However, I find this utterly fishy and urge that a thorough investigation.”
The mood at CCD headquarters at Lavelle Road in central Bengaluru was sombre at about 1 pm, when an emergency board meeting was underway. A guard kept reporters out of the premises, while employees went around with tensed faces and had hushed conversations. A platoon of at least 30 policemen was stationed outside the building.
“We are concerned about the safety of our chairman,” said an employee, who did not want to be named. “Some say it is death other say it is kidnapping. Nothing has been communicated officially.” Another person, also an employee, said some are concerned about the jobs at CCD.
Employees of several CCD outlets and units shunned works on Tuesday morning because of the perceived instability caused by the event. In Hassan, a town near Bengaluru, one CCD outlets declared a holiday for its employees.
Some of the management staff of the company has also been summoned to Mangaluru, media reports said. Following the news, the CCD factory at Chikkamagaluru, domicile of Siddhartha, was shuttered on Tuesday.
“He is a good friend and I am very shocked at the news (of his disappearance),” said Sudhir Sethi, a top venture capitalist. Sethi was an Infosys employee early in his career.
As part of the ongoing investigation, Karnataka police searched the premises of his coffee estate in Mudigere.