Siddhartha’s disappearance points to stress in India Inc

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on July 30, 2019 Published on July 30, 2019

VG Siddhartha, the founder of India's largest coffee chain Cafe Coffee Day. File Photo   -  The Hindu

“I have failed as an entrepreneur. This is my sincere submission. I hope someday you will understand, forgive and pardon me,” VG Siddhartha, the founder of India's largest coffee chain Cafe Coffee Day (CCD), is believed to have said in a note.

Read more: I could not take any more pressure, VG Siddartha says in a letter

While this has jolted the corporate world, which is already reeling under the impact of slowdowns in multiple sectors, various media reports of businessmen choosing to end their lives over failed businesses in recent times point fingers at a larger disconcerting reality: that Siddhartha’s is anything but an isolated incident.

This month it was reported that a steel merchant from Matunga is believed to have committed suicide due to financial losses. In another incident, a 54-year-old businessman jumped off his 17th-floor apartment in a building in Kandivli East, reportedly due to his textile business not doing well. A November 2018 report said that a gold businessman committed suicide, which the police believed was due to debt. It is not just farmers who are feeling the stress of a slowing economy, the spate of suicides seems to suggest that even businessmen are being forced to think of taking the extreme step.

Industry leaders who spoke to BusinessLine on conditions of anonymity said that stress across various sectors is worsening the on ground situation. “Post demonetisation and GST there has been a huge impact on businesses, especially small enterprises. The government needs to engage with businesses and look at how they need to tackle India Inc.’s fiscal health,” said a Mumbai-based executive who mentors young entrepreneurs.

According to Shyam Bhat, Physician and Psychiatrist, Head, Mindfit, “An entrepreneur is particularly prone to depression because, one, there is a lot of pressure...and they invest a lot of their emotional and psychological energy around entrepreneurship and success. Most of their meaning of life is attached to work and that is what makes them successful, but when there is a reversal, that can cause profound feelings of shame and failure that can lead to depression and suicide,”

Consultant clinical psychologist Akanksha Pandey, Fortis hospital, and Venkatesh Babu GM, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health & Neurosciences, Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore pointed out that when it comes to businessmen or entrepreneurs, it has been found that the most prevalent cause of suicide is a chronic state of helplessness. Entrepreneurs are often public figures and known by many but the irony is that they are often very socially isolated keeping work life aside. So when they face a bigger pitfall, they end up feeling trapped or helpless, they explained.

Chetna Duggal, Psychotherapist, Assistant Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said that the way one’s business is doing is often considered a reflection of who one is, as the person is made equivalent to his/her work. Such a tying down of people’s self worth to the success or failure of their businesses needs to be done away with, she said. Integration of people into communities is important because if they are devoid of such connections, they are left feeling vulnerable.

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Published on July 30, 2019
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