Tuesday, July 30, 2019

What does the CCD founder’s death tell us about corporate culture and pressure?

First things first, condolences to the family of VG Siddhartha, a remarkable entrepreneur of our time. [VG Siddhartha death Live Updates: CCD owner's body to be taken to Chikamagalur for last rites]
VG Siddhartha founded and ran several successful business ventures and is best known for his role in the growth of Café Coffee Day (CCD).
The CCD story was a quintessential desi story of our time and B-school students around the globe learnt from the case study. Harvard business school - Coffee Wars in India: Café Coffee Day Takes On the Global Brands || IIM - Exploring Brand Associations in the Indian Context: Cafe Coffee Day || IBS - Cafe Coffee Day's Expansion Strategies| Strategy Case Study || DSIM - How the Man from Bangalore Brewed a $200 Million Success Story? || Others on Google Scholar
Given the success of CCD and Siddhartha’s business acumen in creating a brand and franchise from ground-up, most of us are wondering what went so wrong that he had to take his own life? While the media and digerati speculate, here are a few thoughts on running a business in India
  • The topic of taking on debt, (Good Debt vs. Bad Debt: What's the Difference?) is perennial staple in B-schools and among business leaders and consultants. Good debt is exemplified in the old adage "it takes money to make money." However, when a business faces headwinds, the debt can turn “bad” very fast, and can be lethal.
    • In a letter released before Siddhartha, wen missing, he had said that "tremendous pressure" from other lenders had made him succumb to the situation.
  • Businesses periodically undergo financial stress. Some of the stress rubs on the founders, owners and business leaders.
    • For example, another charismatic Indian entrepreneur Kiran-Mazumdar-Shaw was quoted saying “The hopelessness he seems to be indicating in his letter on financial stress is a real problem. And the way the stakeholders of the financial sector are dealing with business and dealing with entrepreneurs seems to be what the problem is.”
  • Fates of Business, government and society are intertwined in India.
    • Fate of many business leaders are closely aligned with their political sponsors. The government (ruling party) of the day uses IT raids as a tool to control/manage opponents. This can be exacerbated when there is some impropriety and business leaders think they can skirt some regulations or rules.
    • VG Siddhartha was the son-in-law of S. M. Krishna, the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, Indian Minister for External Affairs and Governor of Maharashtra. In a recent letter, Siddhartha alleged ‘harassment’ from Income Tax authorities (Decoding VG Siddhartha's letter: What's the 'harassment' from tax authorities CCD founder faced?)
Fight-or-flight response
Psychologists who study human behavior describe the fight-or-flight response (also called hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) as a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. Human reaction to crisis is highly subjective. Some high-flying business leaders like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya chose flight, by literally flying out of the country when faced with financial doom.
In Siddhartha’s case, he seems to have Fought back for a while, before taking Flight to a lethal extreme.

[reposted on Quora]

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