CHIKKAMAGALURU: The relationship between the management and labour unions is most often strained instead of smooth, but this was not the case with Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha and his employees. In fact, Siddhartha came to the rescue when a union leader died and his family needed help.
In the 1990s, workers’ unions in Chikkamagaluru were quite strong. Labour rights activist B K Sundaresh took the lead in safeguarding the interests of coffee plantation workers. At the same time, Siddhartha was setting up his Coffee firm and he owned several thousand acres of coffee estates. But both maintained a good working relationship.
When Sundaresh lost the Lok Sabha election by a narrow margin, it was Siddhartha who felt hurt and consoled him. When Sundaresh was killed in a railway accident, the leader’s family was helpless. Radha Sundaresh, his wife, said, “It was Siddhartha who came to the help of our bereaved family and assured to help my daughter complete her education. Today, my daughter is an engineer and it is because of Siddhartha.”
The Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company on the Kadur-Mangaluru Road on the outskirts of the city was the empire of coffee king VG Siddhartha Hegde through which he introduced branded coffee to the world, putting Chikkamagaluru on the global map.
A plantation laborer at the Kuderegundi estate, Manjunath, recalled an incident that took place in the yearly Thotada Habba, a festival. Manjunath said that Siddhartha would visit the festival as a common man and mingle with the people, dining with them and all the while, endearing himself to the workers.