Posts Tagged ‘V.G. Siddhartha’

Ayyo, Amma, Mama, Maami, tea is national drink?

25 April 2012

B.S.NAGARAJ writes from Bangalore: Planning commission deputy chairman Padma Vibhushan Montek Singh Ahluwalia has declared that tea would be accorded national drink status next year.

Those native to the south of the Vindhyas may ask why tea, and why not coffee?

Or, maybe, a Kashmiri may say why not kehwa?

In a country where dietary and culinary diversity is of continental proportions, is it fair to simply zero in on a particular beverage and link it to nationhood? Especially when India has had its share of bitter disputes over so-called national symbols like language. Hindi’s imposition on non-Hindi speaking states still ruffles feathers among many Indians.

Proponents of tea may say a majority — according to Ahluwalia, 83% — of Indians prefer the brew over everything else. But are numbers sufficient reason to do what Ahluwalia is seeking to do?

By that argument, should we declare roti or tandoori chicken as a national dish?

Ironically, Ahluwalia’s announcement has been welcomed by tea growers in the Niligiris. But will they dare go to Madras’s Mylapore and ask the mamas and maamis to give up their kaapi and take to tea?

Or go to Bangalore’s Basavanagudi with their campaign?

We haven’t heard a response from the Coffee Days and Baristas so far. Wondering if V.G.Siddhartha will use his pop-in-law S.M.Krishna‘s influence to stop Ahluwalia in his tracks.

Also read: If it works for the young man, it sure works for us

How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not?)

Who’s to say filter coffee OK, Starbucks yaake?

When coffee-tasting gets a whole new meaning

Look, who’s ordering by-two coffee at Wipro

Just one question I’m dying to ask S.M. Krishna

11 August 2011

Although former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna is in charge of what his handlers like to think is the weighty external affairs ministry, the consensus is that the “Son of Somanahalli” got the portfolio because he was considered a malleable lightweight who would just be glad he got the high-profile job and not come in the way of a prime minister who had made “foreign policy” his legacy issue.

(That, and the fact that the Congress high command had to repay him for his “contributions”.)

Nevertheless, Krishna’s MEA tenure has not been short of theatre. For starters, there was the well-advertised five-star stay in a hotel. Over the last few months, he has been bouncing into the public eye with one faux pas after another. In February, he read the speech of the Portugese foreign minister at the United Nations for a full three minutes; in June, got into a flap for extending an official trip to Britain to watch Wimbledon.

A fortnight ago ago, news of his threatening to sue The Times of India for mentioning his name as among those who would be indicted by the Lok Ayukta in the illegal mining scam, made it to TV news bulletins. Six days ago, the litigious advisors guarding his carefully coiffured image, advised him to threaten to sue the news agency PTI for calling him “absent-minded” in a news story which showed him, well, absent-minded in the Lok Sabha.

Now, as if to prove PTI right, Krishna has urged Pakistan to release an octagenarian doctor on humanitarian grounds, although the wheel-chair bound Dr Mohammed Khalil Chisti is lodged in a jail this of the border in Ajmer, Rajasthan. “We will, certainly pursue this at the level of the high commissioner,” he added.

Admittedly, one must take into account Krishna’s age. After all, at 79, he is the oldest member of the Manmohan Singh team. The fact that he still has the energy to fly off to distant countries speaks enormously of his stamina. Still, there is such a thing as calling a spade a bloody shovel, and it is clear that Krishna, used as he was to the kid-glove treatment at the hands of the Bangalore media, is being thoroughly exposed on the national stage.

What is the one question you are dying to ask the patron saint of IT-BT after his latest gaffe?

Like, is he the first human being who nods in agreement with what he is about to say? Like, does he demand frappe from his son-in-law’s Cafe Coffee Day whereever his work takes him?  Like, is it true that he turned down the Oscar award this year for the best performance in a foreign language?

Please keep your queries short, civil and “G category”.

Also read: Can Maddur vade usher in peace to the subcontinent?

Our man from Maddur is shorter than you think

S.M. Krishna on the kidnapping and release of Dr Raj Kumar

How namma Vijay floored namma Gopinath

12 January 2010

Captain G.R. Gopinath, the founder of India’s first lowcost airline has penned his story.

Titled ‘Simplify Fly (HarperCollins), the autobiography includes this passage (excerpted in the latest issue of Business Today magazine) on how Air Deccan eventually landed in Vijay Mallya‘s stable.

“Vijay Mallya called me a little after 10. He spoke endearingly and in a spirit of camaraderie. He said, ‘I know you have shaken hands with Reliance. It doesn’t matter what they have offered you. I am willing to better every term in the deal. You quote the price. I will not negotiate. Let us do the deal.”

“Mallya was calling from Monte Carlo where his $100 million personal yacht, the Indian Empress, was berthed. He was hosting his famed annual party on the eve of the Formula One race. He said: ‘I am at the dinner with a host of VIPs. The Prince of Monaco is here, the stars of Formula One are here. I am calling you in the midst of all this because it is very important to me. Please make a note of all the major terms of the deal. I will call later.’

“The phone rang at about 4 am.

“I said, ‘Vijay, I want you to know this is serious. I’ve already shaken hands with Anil Ambani, but they need 5-6 days more….”

“Mallya spoke to me in Kannada. He was disarming in his tone. He sounded urgent and winsome. He said it was his philosophy to address all the segments of the market: low, middle and high. He had done this with whisky and with beer. He said he was aware of my commitment to a lowcost airline and he respected that. Together, we would be good for the industry. However, with Reliance’s entry into the fray, the bloodbath would continue. Our coming together would altogether transform the scene.

“Mallya asked me if I had the list ready. I read out my list, which included conditions that would deter Mallya. I said: ‘If you are serious about investing in Deccan, you will have to make a deposit of Rs 200 crore immediately’.”

Also read: Munde Magane

World’s largest landbank holder is namma Creema

When Azim Premji‘s father said no and no again

How V.G. Siddhartha built the Coffee Day dream cup by cup

Who is this man who has S.M. Krishna’s left ear?

27 July 2009

If S.M. Krishna‘s appointment as the Union external affairs minister in the new UPA government was a bit of a surprise, even more surprising has been Krishna’s appointment of a little-known man called Raghavendra Shastry as his “advisor” in the MEA, with the rank of additional secretary.

To say that career diplomats are a little mystified would be an understatement, but correspondents on the diplomatic beat are happily reporting that the aroma of Mysore coffee (CoffeeDay™, presumably) is already wafting from the first-floor offices of Krishna’s (and Shastry’s) at South Block.

So, who is this neatly dressed, clean-shaven “longtime personal friend” of Krishna’s who has suddenly emerged as an officer on special duty (OSD) in the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) directory, and as “advisor” in the MEA telephone directory?


# Raghavendra Shastry is the president of GetIt Info Services, the official publishers of the Bangalore telephone directory and yellow pages. On his Linked In profile (accessed on 27 July 2009), Shastry lists his official designations as “president”, “corporate vice-president”, and “strategy and negotiation consultant”, all in the same breath.

# On his Google profile, Shastry terms himself a “consultant at GetIt Infomediary Limited”. On the official GetIt website, he is listed as president of the BizList division of the company. Getit is a company of former Congress MP Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, whose family owned the Daily Tej newspaper and Sun, the youth tabloid, before branching into yellow pages around the country. Gupta’s younger brother, Ramesh Gupta, now runs the family business.

2006010709700401# There are those who claim Raghavendra Shastry was introduced to Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, once chairman of the Congress’ publicity committee, by Karnataka Congress leader B.K. Hari Prasad, now a general secretary of the party. Some others say Shastry owes his Congress connections to his father, whose fortune-telling skills got him close to several politicians.

home-logo-smallAs the ambitious Bangalore head of GetIt, Raghavendra Shastry is said to have come close to S.M. Krishna in the mid-to-late 1990s, according to one version. Others say Shastry got close to Krishna only a couple years after the Congress’s 1998 victory. Some give credit to Shastry for Krishna’s telephone campaign (a technique used by Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2004).

# On his Google profile (accessed on 26 July 2009), Shastry writes that he grew up in Bangalore, but friends say he hails from Mukkur, near Puttur in South Canara, which partly explains his proximity to S.M.Krishna’s son-in-law V.G. Siddhartha, the founder of Coffee Day who hails from neighbouring Chikamagalur.

# Shastry’s rise and rise all the way to South Block is attributed to Siddhartha, who accompanied Krishna on the day of the swearing-in. Some say Krishna’s “family” is using Shastry to keep another Krishna crony, R.T. Narayan, in check.

Mysorean Narayan shares Krishna’s enthusiasm for tennis and is best known for the “permanent room” he maintains at a star hotel in Bangalore. However, Shastry is said to have accompanied Krishna on his last three trips to Wimbledon. Shastry is also said to have gone with Krishna on his post-debacle visit to China in 2004.

# On his Google profile, Shastry offers this bio:  “A highly successful Senior Executive with over 15 years of experience in administration, sales, marketing, and operations.  Very proficient in sales and business development, with proven record for increasing revenues and profits.  Outstanding managerial, decision-making, and negotiating abilities, plus excellent communication and people skills.  Well experienced in change management and in building and leading high-performance teams.  Highly motivated and dynamic go-getter.  Energetic, ambitious, and demanding, yet fair and easy to get along with.”

# Shastry is variously described as a soft-spoken, unassuming sort of person who melts into the background. He is said to have a tremendous memory, and doesn’t drink, smoke or eat non-vegetarian food. One journalist-acquaintance of Shastry’s says he works “18 hours a day”, calling him “indefatigable”. Jacob Thomas, who worked with him at Getit for 10 years, says Shastry “was a taskmaster and big brother at the same time.”

20090302getit1# At the launch of the Mangalore-Udupi Bizlist in March this year, Shastry, who now has to deal with embassies and high commissions, presciently said the directory included the listing of “over 150 embassies in India” along with their phone numbers and addresses.

At the same release, the DIG (western range), Gopal Hosur urged Shastry to “create a directory of all the criminals and keep a record of their addresses, so that it will help the policemen to easily trace them.”

nyt-global-edition-masthead-logo# Shastry was holding forth in a New York Times story in May 2008 on the damage wrought by coalition politics to Karnataka. “Nothing has been done in the last four to five years and we’re worried Bangalore will lose competitiveness. Companies are expanding to other places. And it’s not Bangalore that will lose business – it’s India.” Among the others quoted in the article was Ashok Kheny of Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise.

# Shastry is said to be a bachelor of science (BSc) from Bangalore University, but on his Linked In profile claims “education” in the University of Chicago’s Booth school of business (2005), Harvard business school (1999-2003) and Columbia business school (1996).

Searches on the Booth school and Columbia school websites for “Raghavendra Shastry”, “Raghavendra” or “Shastry” do not turn up any matching results.

Exhibit A: On the HBS executive education website, Shastry offers this quote for the six-day, $13,000 (Rs 6.5 lakh) course on “Leading change and organisation renewal”: “The work and study groups helped me to solve major problems in my company. As a result, I now am able to deal with the conflicts and pressures from the past—and prepare for the future by using all the tools and innovative processes of organizational problem solving.

Exhibit B: On the website of MCS consulting, an “international investment and strategic management consulting company”, Shastry offers an almost identical certificate:  “The work and study groups really helped me to solve major problems in my company. As a result, I now am able to deal with the conflicts and pressures from the past—and discover the future using all the tools and the innovative process of organizational problem solving.

# Shastry is effusive in gratitude even otherwise. “Dear Dr Prasad, Thank you very much for the individual reports of senior managers as well as the set of ‘inspirational keepsake’ provided by you. On behalf of the company I wholeheartedly thank you for giving the inspiration which we have already started adapting (sic) in our daily work,” he wrote to Prasad Sundararajan of the Coimbatore-based Geniuschoice Institute of Creative Management.

shastry raj

# During the Raj Kumar kidnapping crisis that dogged the S.M. Krishna regime, Shastry, according to reporters on the beat, was a busy player, if not the “chief negotiator”, in the negotiations that finally secured the release of the thespian from the clutches of Veerappan, by all accounts after the payment of a ransom. Some claim that Shastry dealt with Vysya Bank in person to “arrange” for the release.

Shastry  is said to be close to R. Ram Kumar, the son of former DGP R. Ramalingam, who was in the thick of things during the Raj Kumar abduction, with Veerappan even allegedly using Ram Kumar’s mobile phone to make contact with S.M. Krishna, according to former DGP C. Dinakar.

# On his Google profile, Shastry says he has conducted case studies for leading multinationals in USA and Europe; that he has been “invited” by Public Affairs International, London; China Strategy Forum, Beijing ; and China Society for Strategy and Management Research “to discuss matters on strategy and crisis management”.

Foreign secretary-designate Nirupama Rao was India’s ambassador to China till recently. Her husband Sudhakar Rao is currently chief secretary of Karnataka.

# When “Bandra Bomber” Sachin Tendulkar visited the Kukke Subramanya temple, Shastry set up a website on the temple and its rituals.  He claimed the site received 17.5 lakh hits in seven hours due to interest generated by the cricketer’s spiritual sojourn. Shastry is said to maintain and manage websites of temples at Udupi, Dharmasthala, Katil and Kollur on a “non-commercial basis”.

# In 2000, Shastry played a hand in announcing a Bangalore police foundation on the lines of New York police foundation. He initially promised Rs 3 crore from his organisation to help modernise police control rooms, but suffered a setback when he failed to get income tax exemption for the monetary contribution.

# Those who know Shastry say he is a cat at public relations (PR), with a special fondness for journalists. On his Facebook account, he has nine friends, including two working journalists and two former journalists. On his Twitter account, he follows one journalist. In the early 1990s, he donated rain jackets to every photo-journalist in Bangalore, and later also helped produce the annual diary of the Press Club of Bangalore.

Also read: S.M. Krishna on the release of Dr Raj Kumar

How Siddhartha built the Coffee Day dream cup by cup

Can Maddur Vade usher in peace to subcontinent?

13 June 2009


RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: For the better part of the past month, one of the questions that has been bugging me is a food-related one: who made the first Maddur Vade, and why did he make it in one of the more unremarkable places on the Bangalore-Mysore road?

(It’s so artless in its looks, it has to be a he, right?)

Sexist stereotypes aside, there are two reasons—three, if you include the inclusion of Our Man from Maddur to head the external affairs ministry—why I have been thinking about the Maddur Vade—or Maddur Vada or Vadai to irritate the semantic chauvinists.

Firstly, as my husband (age 41) keeps teasingly insisting these days, food is the new sex: there is some kind of voyeuristic pleasure to be had in reading about it; in thinking about it; in publicly imagining its myriad private possibilities.

And secondly, how can any self-respecting foodie in Bangalore not think of the Maddur Vade?

I mean, Mysore has its pak; Mangalore has its bajji and gadbad; Dharwad the peda; Davangere its benne dose. Even tiddly Bidadi has its “thatte idli“. If the identity of these small towns can be defined by food, just what accident of history deprived “big” Bangalore of its culinary claim to fame?

And what accident of history gave Maddur its pride of place on the gastronomic map?

The answer could be geography.

The fact that Maddur lies almost exactly mid-way (70 km) between Bangalore and Mysore could well explain its birth and growth as the must-have mid-way snack.

Back in pre-liberalised India, when the trains were metre gauge and private cars were few and far between, “Non-Stop” buses was the way to go. The buses halted for a few minutes underneath amid the coconut orchards for the men to amuse themselves.

Was that when the Maddur Vada made its brave incursion?

These days, for some 40-50 km on the 140-km stretch, from somewhere after Ramanagara to somewhere before Mandya, Maddur Vade stalks you like those picture postcard sellers do at the Taj or Gateway of India.

In a way, though, the Vade could be Maddur’s picture postcard except that you view it through your mouth and quickly eat up the evidence before the next town nears. But since the flavour of burnt onion is the defining characteristic of the Maddur Vade, the memory lingers long after.

So, you wonder who made it first and why?


download2If you are on an express or shuttle trains, the vendors haul up the buckets stuffed full with the Vade at the various stations and “crossing” points. These Vades are of varying quality, slightly thicker and a slightly more expensive than the Vades that the young boys produce at your bus window.

But it is only when you are in your own car or on a bike, that the full magic of Maddur Vade can be properly exploited and appreciated.

Reason: on public transport, the Maddur Vade is a heartless, no-fuss, commercial transaction.

On the train, for instance, the vendor serves it to you on 1/8th of a newspaper sheet and rushes off because there are 14 other compartments to serve.

If you are on the evening Chamundi Express heading to Mysore, the vendor might even affectionately persuade you to pick up a packet of three or five in a plastic cover for the family but that’s just “stock clearance” before he closes shop for the day and gets off in Srirangapatna.

If you are on the dreadful Shatabdi Express, god help you.

On the bus, the Maddur Vade is a victim of logistical inconsistency. Different kinds of bus services stop at different kinds of places, and some like the Volvos don’t even do that. Result: you don’t know where, if at all, your next Maddur Vade is coming from.

It is only when you take an express bus that you can be sure that at least in the place of its birth, the Vade will materialise at your window.

On both the train and the bus, the Maddur Vade is a functional experience. The Vade and nothing more. It’s bone-dry and convenient although the train Vade has been calculated by scientists of the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) to be on average 2.3 times thicker than the bus Vade. (The Defence Food Research Laboratory has put the figure at 2.35 times.)

Downside: the vintage of the Vade is hidden by the speed of the transaction.

However, it is when you stop by leisurely at the highway restaurants—Maddur Tiffany’s on either side of the highway, the “MTR” Shivalli restaurant, Kamat Lokruchi, etc—especially when the sun is dipping, that you get to savour the experience of a warm-to-hot Vade with chutney, followed by strong coffee.

Only those who have newly bought a white elephant called the tread mill can stop at just one.

(Café Coffee Day, I am certain, is never likely to soil the muffin-coated mouths of its clientele despite its founder’s conjugal links with Maddur.)


The strange thing about the Maddur Vade despite its reasonable reputation is that there are few claimants to its discovery.

The Moti Mahal in Delhi will lay claim to dishing up the first butter chicken; Bombay’s Nelson Wang to the gobi Manchurian. But who lowered the first Maddur Vade into the boiling bandlee? We will never know.

There is a museum in Shivapura but there are no statues hailing the maker, the master-chef. Yet.

My own first memory of Maddur Vade is when I was seven or eight. Our family was proceeding to Bangalore in our old Morris Tiger early one morning. Shortly after Maddur, my father swung the car into a narrow lane which deposited us in front of the railway station. Magically, a vendor appeared and served us the goodies on l’il banana leaves.

Even now, the Maddur Vade at the railway station commands a small premium over other Maddur Vades, and old faithfuls still swear by it, resisting all overtures from the vendors on the trains, till the stop nears. But this could just be good old nostalgia.

For me, the Maddur Vade has held its charm for one key reason: it was the rebel among vades in our joint family kitchen. My mother, Sharada, now 75, never ever made or attempted to make it at home. Uddina vade she did, masala vade she did, but Maddur Vade was a strict no-no.

There was something “street food” about it.

So, falling for its charms not only became a matter of the stomach but an expression of the heart. Nothing about it suggests good health. Not the oil, not the semolina, not the deep fried onions.

But the fact that they didn’t make it at home was reason enough to hog regardless of the time of day. A deep fried vade first thing in the morning on the way to work may not be what the doctor prescribes, but what’s medicine got to do with the palate when geography beckons?

Speaking of which, will Prema Krishna put Maddur Vade on the MEA menu  when the “dialogue process” begins with Pakistan? And could it usher in peace between our two countries in our troubled subcontinent?

If the shortest route to a man’s heart is through his stomach, can even Asif Ali Zardari resist the Maddur Vade‘s naked attraction that has melted millions from different parts of the country?

It’s pure fantasy, of course, but you can almost hear S.M. Krishna sitting at the high table, nodding in agreement with himself as he delicately pushes a plate of Maddur Vade towards his guests from across the border: “Here, try some of these with some gatti chutney….”

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: How V.G. Siddhartha built the CCD dream cup by cup

Once upon a time, shortly after the lunch break

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

By-two badaam haalu for the lambu leggie, please

Mane Adige recipe: Maddur Vade

How Siddhartha built the CCD dream cup by cup

22 May 2009

The Bangalore brand that evokes the most immediate recall and recognition around the world may be Infosys, but the Bangalore brand that touches more lives inside the country has to be Cafe Coffee Day.


But, while everybody knows the story of N.R. Narayana Murthy & Co, CCD has had no such luck. Its founder V.G. Siddhartha (in picture) has been a bit of a recluse, letting his stores do all the talking.

The man who has had to work extra-hard to play down the benefits of his proximity to his famous father-in-law, former chief minister S.M. Krishna, has opened up to Subroto Bagchi, the co-founder of Mindtree (of which Siddhartha is now a director), in the launch issue of Forbes magazine’s India edition.

Siddhartha says he could have easily lived off the 350 acres of coffee estate his family owned in Chikamagalur, but he wanted to start something on his own, to make money on his own. His father gave him Rs 5 lakh to “invest”, and to come back if he failed.

Siddhartha was 21 when he went to Bombay:

“I bought a piece of land for about three lakh and kept the rest in a bank. Then, I took a bus to Belgaum and then another to Bombay. I got off near the Fort. I had never stepped into the city before. I walked into a dabba hotel that rented rooms with a shared toilet for Rs 120 a day.

“Next day, I went to meet Mahendra Kampani of JM Financials—I had only heard the name. I had no appointment. I went to his office and the first thing was that I felt intimidated by the two elevators. I had never taken an elevator in my life. So, I climbed up the six floors.

“I met his secretary, a man named Mohan. I told him that I wanted to meet Mahendra Kampani; that I wanted to work with him. Mohan was a Bangalore guy. The man somehow felt sympathetic. He said that I could gatecrash just when he would be coming out of Mahendra Bhai’s room. I did exactly that.

“Mahendra bhai was perplexed with me. He asked me who I was. I told him that I had come all the way from Bangalore and I wanted to work for him. He made me sit down; he fetched me a glass of water. I had never seen an office as large as his. Then he spoke to me, he called someone to show me the research department and asked me to come back at 3 p.m. to see him again.

“I met him at 3 p.m. He said he would take me in but he had no idea who I was. He asked me to get him at least a letter of introduction. That is how it all started.

“I spent all my waking hours to learn about the trade. Every single day, I showed up at 7 am at the office and Mahendra bhai and I were invariably the last to leave well past nine in the night. I would tell the office boys to pack up and it was I who took Mahendra bhai’s dabba to load it in his car as the last item of work.

“In the process, he taught me all about the world of investing. He trusted me. He let me handle the accounts of some really big business houses. After a year-and-a-half with him, I was ready to come back to start on my own. I told Mahendra bhai that. I told him how grateful I was to him, what a lot I owed him.

“He told me that the Universe is connected in a web of timeless relationships. He had merely paid me back for past debt of a previous life — that I owed him nothing.

“So, Siddhartha returned and even though he bought over a stock trading firm called Sivan Securities (later renamed Global Technology Ventures), he really put his heart and soul into the coffee business. He bought out estate after failing estate in the wake of unviable coffee pricing and poor margins dictated by an international cartel. Then one day he decided to be his own master. He realised that the real value addition was in converting the beans into the coffee drinking experience and the rest is history.”

Since a recluse has started making other appearances in the media it could well mean Siddhartha is planning to take Coffee Day public, but that’s another issue.

Read the full article: Serving it hot

Also read: S.M. Krishna on the release of Dr Raj Kumar

What do they know of Mysore who only CCD know