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Body of India’s largest coffee chain found from Manglore

NEW DELHI: The body of the founder and owner of Cafe Coffee Day was found near a river in the southern Indian city of Manglore.

Cafe Coffee Day is India’s largest coffee chain. Police say VG Siddhartha went missing on Monday after apparently walking away from his car and driver.

On Tuesday, police said a body had been found by fishermen on the river. The identity of the body was ascertained as Siddhartha by his family.

Siddhartha’s company, Coffee Day Enterprises Limited, held an emergency board meeting on Monday to discuss his absence. In a statement, it appealed for “the support and strength of all our stakeholders”.

In a note to the stock exchange it said the company was “professionally managed and led by a competent business team” which would ensure the “continuity” of business.

It also shared a widely circulated letter signed by Mr Siddhartha, in which he said he was in debt and had “failed to create the right profitable business model despite my best efforts”. Police verified the authenticity of the letter on Tuesday.

“I am solely responsible for all mistakes. Every financial transaction is my responsibility,” it said.

“My intention was never to cheat or mislead anybody. I have failed as an entrepreneur.”

The 59-year-old coffee tycoon, who has been described in local media as “soft spoken” and “self-effacing”, was not fond of the limelight.

He was born to a family of coffee plantation owners, but his first company was an investment firm. He used the profits from it to enter the coffee business.

A chat with the owners of Tchibo, a German coffee chain, inspired him to open a chain of cafes. Cafe Coffee Day opened its first outlet in the southern city of Bangalore in 1996. It wooed customers by offering them free internet with a cappuccino.

Mr Siddhartha saw the chain become one of the biggest brands in the country. It remained competitive even against global rivals such as Starbucks.

“He is singularly responsible for increasing domestic coffee consumption in India. There can be no doubt about it. In those days, we were completely dependent upon the export market and the heavy regulations on its sale,” Dr SM Kaverappa, former vice chairman of the Indian Coffee Board said.