How Malavika Hegde revived Café Coffee Day after the tragic demise of her entrepreneur husband

Image Credit: Special Arrangement/Manorama Online

The meteoric rise of the Café Coffee Day brand is still hailed as one of the greatest success stories of home-grown businesses in India. However, not many knew about the huge debts the coffee giant has amassed until its owner VG Siddhartha died by suicide.

After his death, many thought that the company wouldn’t survive. But, Malavika Hegde, Siddhartha’s wife, took over the reins of the company at a crucial juncture and scripted an amazing saga of resurrection.

Siddhartha was impressed by the incredible scope of the cafeteria culture around the world. The coffee beans that were used at the Café Coffee Day outlets were produced at his own plantations. Besides, specially designed coffee machines were used at the outlets. Moreover, the Café Coffee Day outlets stood out for its unique colour theme and custom-made furniture pieces that gave them an identity. The first outlet of Café Coffee Day was opened in 1996 at Bengaluru. By 2011, it had grown into a major business group owning more than 1000 outlets around the country.

However, Siddhartha lost grip on his business empire and soon it nosedived into debts. As per the data released on 31 March 2019, Café Coffee Day has accumulated a debt of Rs 7200 crore. On 31 July VG Siddhartha took his own life by jumping into the Netravati River. Soon, Malavika took over as the CEO of the Café Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd (CDEL). From that day on, she worked tirelessly for the growth of the company that her late husband had built.

Special Arrangement/Manorama Online

The company was safe in the hands of Malavika who introduced a slew of measures to save it. Before becoming the CEO, Malavika had served as the non – board member of CDEL for many years. In a letter to the company’s 25,000 employees Malavika assured to reduce the debt to manageable levels by selling a few investments and assets. She also expressed her commitment to the company’s future.

Malavika took over as the CEO of the company during the lockdown period. “Somewhere along the way in the last twelve months, my mission has been to uphold the legacy of Siddhartha. He has left me a job to do, to settle every lender to the best of my ability, to grow the business and to enthuse and foster our employees,” says Malakvika.

Malavika, however, made sure to not increase the price of the coffee. Apart from pulling down the shutters on many outlets that weren’t making any profits, she withdrew hundreds of coffee vending machines that were installed at many IT parks and companies. Moreover, she was successful in pumping capital into the company by attracting new investors.

The debt was brought down to Rs 3100 crore as of 31 March 2020 from Rs 7200 crore in March 2019. As a result of Malavika’s initiatives, it further dropped to Rs 1731 crore in 31 March 2021. She has been successfully running the outlets even during the COVID-19 by strictly following the pandemic protocols. Now, Café Coffee Day has more than 572 outlets around the country. Besides, there are around 36,000 coffee vending machines at various firms and companies. Moreover, the 333 value express kiosks too have proved to be successful. She also registered a grand success in the export of high-quality Arabica coffee beans. The coffee beans that are grown in her 20,000 acres coffee plantation enjoy high demand in many foreign countries. Today, Malavika Hedge has become a Super Woman who holds the iconic brand of Café Coffee Day together.

Malavika was born in 1969 as the daughter of former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna. She completed her engineering graduation from the Bangalore University. She tied the knot with VG Siddhartha in 1991 and has two sons, Eshaan and Amartya. 

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