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Why entrepreneur CCD founder Siddhartha ended up the way he did



On Wednesday, the coffee square on Vittal Mallya road in Bengaluru where the headquarters of Café Coffee Day (CCD) stands wore a desolate look. It was a quiet day, interspersed by the occasional arrival or exit of grim-faced senior executives.

Things have been rather tense ever since news emerged early on Tuesday morning that CCD’s founder Chairman VG Siddhartha was missing, and may have killed himself unable to bear the financial pressure he was under. His body washed up on the shores of Nethravati river early on Wednesday morning.

How did things come to such a sorry pass for a man labelled “India’s coffee king?” While there are many explanations proffered, a cursory reading of the group’s holdings indicate that while assets exceed liabilities, the issue seems to be an old one which has plagued ambitious entrepreneurs— excessive borrowing.

As of 31 March 2019 Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd (the holding company) had a debt of Rs 6547.38 crore. It wasn’t clear whether this includes Rs 2100 crore the company would have received net of taxes and expense after it sold the 20.41% stake it held in MindTree Consulting to L & T for Rs 3269 crore. Company officials did not respond to a request for comment. According to publicly available data as of June 2019, 75.70% of the promoter group’s holdings in Coffee Day Enterprises were pledged to lenders.

Share prices of most companies have fallen in the past months and Coffee Day’s were no exception. In the last three months alone, the company’s shares have fallen nearly 46%.

Trading in the scrip was halted on Wednesday after it was breached the lower circuit after plunging 20% on Tuesday.

A former senior associate of Siddhartha who is now an investor in startups claimed that the latter was looking to raise funds, but with little success. With funds failing to materalise and unable to liqudate the vast real estate holdings of the group, Siddhartha was staring down the barrel.

In the 27th July letter addressed to the board, in which Siddhartha indicated that he was giving up, he provided an estimate of what he thought the various group businesses are worth. By his own assessment the group’s assets seem to be in the range of Rs 15,000 crores and liabilities, less than half of that.

However, unable to service the growing mountain of debt and to liquidate his assets in a tough market, he seems to have decided to end it all.

On Wednesday, the board in a notice to the stock exchanges announced the appointment of S V Ranganath as the interim chairman of the board and Nitin Bagmane as the COO. Ranganath is a retired senior IAS officer, a former chief secretary of Karnataka who is known to be close to Siddhartha’s father-in-law, former chief minister S M Krishna. He also was the head of Coffee Board for a brief while in the late 1990s. Ranganath was an independent director on the board of the company.

Coffee Day Enterprise Ltd also said that it had taken cognizance of the statements in the purported letter from Siddhartha relating to financial transactions outside the knowledge of the senior management, auditors and the board. It also said the authenticity of the letter is unverified and it is unclear whether these statements pertained to the company or the personal holdings of Siddhartha.

The board also indicated that it has the backing of the family of Siddhartha including his wife Malavika Hegde.

Naresh Malhotra a former CEO of Cafe Coffee Day expressed shock at the developments “He was a fine entrepreneur. Very rooted and built a globally known retail brand. I am sure the board will ensure that the legacy of Siddhartha is protected and strengthened.”



From ex-Prez Pranab Mukherjee, a message on dissent, protests and consensus



The wave of peaceful protests that have gripped the country shall enable deepening India’s democratic roots, former President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday. Mukherjee’s remarks are seen in the context of protests that started after the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre pushed the Citizenship Amendment Act through Parliament last month. He did not specify the citizenship law in his address but hardly left anyone in doubt either.

“The last few months have witnessed people come out on the streets in large numbers, particularly the young to voice out their views on issues which in their opinion are important. Their (protesters’) assertion and belief in the Constitution is particularly heartening to see,” said Mukherjee.

Mukherjee was speaking at the first Sukumar Sen memorial lecture organised by the election commission. The lecture has been instituted in the memory of first Chief Election Commissioner of India.

The Constitution and the reading of the preamble has been a central and common thread across most protests that erupted in the country after the enactment of the citizenship law.

Critics of the law have stressed that the provision that grants citizenship on the basis of religion of the applicant violates the constitutional principles of equality and secularism. Many of them have also taken their battle against the citizenship law to the Supreme Court which has given the Centre four weeks to respond to the 160-odd petitions that have been filed.

Home Minister Amit Shah has made it clear that the government would not budge on the law. “We are not afraid of protests. In fact we were born amid protests, raised amid protests,” he told a rally in favour of the law in Lucknow.

At Thursday’s lecture, Mukherjee underlined the importance of consensus, describing it as the “lifeblood of democracy”.

“Democracy thrives on listening, deliberating, discussing, arguing, even dissenting,” the former President said.

“It is my firm belief that all these could be achieved because we fiercely upheld and maintained the sanctity and supremacy of elections and the electoral process,” he said.


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Elon Musk’s SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test



SpaceX completed the last big test of its crew capsule before launching astronauts in the next few months, mimicking an emergency escape shortly after liftoff Sunday.

No one was aboard for the wild ride in the skies above Cape Canaveral, just two mannequins.

The nine-minute flight ended with the Dragon crew capsule parachuting safely into the Atlantic, after separating and speeding away from the exploding rocket.

“I’m super fired up,” Elon Musk, the company’s founder and chief executive, told reporters. “It’s just going to be wonderful to get astronauts back into orbit from American soil after almost a decade of not being able to do so. That’s just super exciting.”

NASA astronauts have not launched from the U.S. since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the next Crew Dragon could launch with a pair of NASA astronauts in the second quarter of this year — as early as April.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off as normal, but just over a minute into its supersonic flight, the Dragon crew capsule catapulted off the top 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the Atlantic. Powerful thrusters on the capsule propelled it up and out of harm’s way, as the rocket engines deliberately shut down and the booster tumbled out of control and exploded in a giant fireball.

The capsule reached an altitude of about 27 miles (44 kilometers) before parachuting into the ocean just offshore to bring the test flight to a close. Everything appeared to go well despite the choppy seas and overcast skies. Within minutes, a recovery ship was alongside the capsule.

Recycled from three previous launches, the SpaceX rocket was destroyed as it burst apart in flight and slammed in pieces into the sea. SpaceX normally tries to recover its boosters to drive down launch costs, landing them upright on a floating platform or back at the launch site.

NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, said the launch abort test was “our last open milestone” before allowing SpaceX to launch Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station. Their launch date will depend, in part, on whether NASA decides to keep them for months at the orbiting lab, versus just a week or two. A longer mission will require more training before flight.

The astronauts monitored Sunday’s flight from the firing room. Hurley said it was “pretty neat to see” the capsule aboard the recovery ship within two hours. By all early accounts, the test was successful.

“We’ll see what the data show and go from there,” Hurley said. “But it certainly is a confidence builder from the standpoint if you ever got into that situation, that Dragon can get us away from the booster quickly.”

The astronauts also will have access to speed before liftoff. During a launch dress rehearsal Friday, Hurley and Behnken drove a white Tesla Model X from Kennedy Space Center’s crew quarters to the launch pad, their sleek white and black spacesuits matching the electric sports car with wing-like doors. Musk, who also runs Tesla, used the cars to get around the space center Sunday.

Delayed a day by bad weather, Sunday’s launch from Kennedy brought together hundreds of SpaceX, NASA and Air Force employees on land, at sea and in the air. Tourists and locals alike packed the adjoining visitor complex and nearby beaches to see the dramatic fiery spectacle of an out-of-control rocket. Musk brought along his own family, including his brother.

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing a decade ago to transport astronauts to and from the space station for billions of dollars. Both companies struggled with technical problems, adding years of delay and forcing NASA to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars extra for Russian rocket rides.

After multiple cargo deliveries for NASA, SpaceX successfully flew an enhanced crew capsule to the space station last March without anyone on board, but it exploded a month later during ground testing. The emergency escape thrusters — the kind used in Sunday’s test — had to be retooled. In all, SpaceX has tested these powerful Super Draco thrusters some 700 times.

Last month, meanwhile, Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule ended up in the wrong orbit on its first test flight and had to skip the space station. The previous month, only two of the Starliner’s three parachutes deployed during a launch abort test.

Lueders said it’s too soon to know whether Boeing will need to send another Starliner to the space station without a crew or go straight to launching astronauts later this year. An investigation team is still looking into why the Starliner’s automated timer was off by 11 hours during the December test flight.

The importance of launch escape was demonstrated in 2017 when two astronauts, an American and a Russian, were pulled to safety during a failed launch from Kazakhstan. They experienced up to seven times the force of gravity during the abort, but walked away from the accident.

The SpaceX in-flight abort system, Musk pointed out, should be gentler for the crew and is good from the launch pad all the way to orbit.

Musk said the Dragon’s escape system should work — in principle — even if the capsule is still attached when the rocket erupts in a fireball. He said that could look like “something out of ‘Star Wars’” with the capsule flying right out of a fireball.

“Obviously we want to avoid doing that,” he quickly added, taking note of all the NASA personnel around him.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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Chandrayaan 2, India-Aus 2001 match in PM Modi’s Pariksha Pe Charcha message



Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted the students of the country to learn from failure to become successful in life.

At the third edition of ‘Pariksha pe Charcha’ – Prime Minister’s interaction with students ahead of their exams – he gave the analogy of the unsuccessful launch of Chandrayaan 2, India’s moon mission, last year.

“Some people advised me against going to Chandrayaan mission launch saying ‘there is no surety’, ‘what if it fails?’ I said that is precisely why I should go there. Even I was disturbed by the failure of Chandrayaan 2, but then I went to talk to the scientists and motivated them. I expressed my feelings and praised their hard work and about nation’s dreams. The mood changed, not just there, but across the country,” PM Modi said.

“What happened after that, you all know. Sometimes you can learn from failure,” he added.

He also talked about the 2001 India vs Australia match at Kolkata. Citing the example of Anil Kumble, who was injured during the match but still played and won the match, he said that it depends on us how we deal with the troubles.

He also gave examples of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. “Our team was facing setbacks and the mood wasn’t great. But, we can never forget how Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman turned the match around. This is power of positive thinking and motivation,” PM Modi said.

The programme has been organised by the government as stress-buster for the students, where PM Modi is sharing tips to perform under pressure.

Around 2,000 students from all over the country are participating in the programme; 1,050 have been selected through short essays on five topics.

The programme is being moderated by two students.


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