“I have failed as an entrepreneur.”
“I am very sorry to let down all the people that put their trust in me.”
“I am solely responsible for all mistakes.”
The last note of VG Siddhartha to his Cafe Coffee Day family is devastating. More devastating, though, are the feelings it exhibits - the emotional state it reveals of a man who had had enough.
It’s heartbreaking to know that the man who founded Cafe Coffee Day, who gave the newly liberalised India it’s first taste of coffee, and who gifted many of us who came-of-age in the late 90s memories with first loves and childhood friends over shared cups of coffee; decided against sharing his own financial troubles with friends and family.
The man who corporate India is calling cheerful, positive, one always with a ready smile, was hiding so much underneath.
I had known #VGSiddhartha personally and was always amazed at his energy and positivity. Distressed by his disappearance. He has been an inspiring entrepreneur and investor.— Sachin Bansal (@_sachinbansal) July 30, 2019
So heartbreaking. Had met him a few times - an absolute gentleman. How can someone get pushed so far to the edge in business, that they decide to take a fall themselves. I will always see his legacy as a very successful entrepreneur who brought coffee in our lives. My prayers ?? https://t.co/bXHh2vyKmW— Kunal Bahl (@1kunalbahl) July 30, 2019
Coffee Day Owner Alleged Harassment By Tax Officer In Letter: Report - Such a shocking and sad end to a quiet n unassuming pioneer who started the coffee cafes business ahead of Starbucks in India. https://t.co/SKgAJH3dAS— Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (@kiranshaw) July 30, 2019
It’s so easy to forget that the people who we presume to be doing brilliantly well in their lives, could also be suffering from other issues. The oft used ‘lonely at the top’ trope comes to mind.
Dr Samir Parekh, a psychiatrist at Max Hospitals believes that because they are often discouraged from help-seeking (professional, or from friends and family) and are expected in a stereotypical way to take care of their problem themselves.
"A lot of times, people who are in leadership positions, or people who are perceived as high up in the ladder, they find themselves more isolated." - Samir Parekh, Psychiatrist
Despite having a supportive family and a shared camaraderie within the company and with fellow corporate leaders, VG Siddhartha did not share his financial vulnerability with his auditors, family, or team.
While a good leader often takes the fall in case something goes wrong, where does one draw the line between taking responsibility and being consumed terribly by self-guilt. In the case of VG Siddhartha, the scales tilted more towards the latter. But as Anand Mahindra rightly points out, entrepreneurs can’t let business failure destroy their self-esteem.
I did not know him & have no knowledge of his financial circumstances. I only know that entrepreneurs must not allow business failure to destroy their self-esteem. That will bring about the death of entrepreneurship. https://t.co/H4ysr8Ov3U— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) July 30, 2019
VG Siddhartha in his last note wrote that he had failed as an entrepreneur. And that his intention was never to cheat or hurt anybody. He also sought forgiveness.
Failure hurts all humans. Whether it is failure in business, or relationships, or personal expectations. But unfortunately, this unaddressed feeling can have terrible consequences. And no one is immune from it. Not the farmer with a failed crop in Vidharba, neither the man who could have lost his empire.
"Caste, gender, socio-economic condition, problems don’t look at these angles. Every time we hear of somebody who is better known or perceived as doing well: whether it is Hollywood celebrities, or entrepreneurs and business men, we end up seeing those as a separate case because we perceive faultily that position, money, or stature are in some way immunising you from problems that any human being may experience. " - Samir Parekh, PsychiatristVG Siddharartha’s Words
“I fought for a long time but today I gave up as I could not take any more pressure from any one of the private equity partners forcing me to buy back shares, a transaction I had partially completed six months ago by borrowing a large sum of money from a friend.”
The bottled up frustration, and the desire to keep things to himself, ultimately proved to be too much to handle.
The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 now mandates companies to start focusing on mental balance sheets as well.
"“I think it’s also time that corporate India realises the value of mental health outcomes as a parameter to measure how well the organisation is doing. Beyond the EBITA and bottom and top lines, mental health outcomes and well being needs to be part of the agenda. Especially in high pressure jobs and at a time when work-life balance is largely warped.”" - Dr. Samir Parekh
The note of the CCD owner is out there. He is no more. It’s time the corporate world acknowledges the mental health crisis that is booming in offices.
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