On a rainy evening in Bengaluru, ironically at a Costa Coffee, Ravi Krishnan [name changed] sips tea and says that the top management at Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) don’t understand the ground realities of what happens at the cafe level. It is either that or they choose to overlook it.

He shares his own grim story. A year ago, he was a cafe manager at CCD. And what he saw, and even took part in, haunts him till this day. A widespread culture of over-billing by employees to meet sales targets as the company shifts its focus to selling more food items. Employees would apparently bill a number of products to meet the month’s target and they would be asked to make up for it over the next three months through sales. If they were unable to make up for the lost sales, salaries would be docked.

It wouldn’t be much of a problem if he were the only one with this story. He isn’t. The Ken spoke to several former employees who confirmed the practice and said that it was more pronounced on “special occasions” such as Valentine’s Day and Friendship Day.

“Special Occasions”

In July 2017, Pramod, a CCD employee who had worked for 11 years at the company, took his own life. In his suicide note, Pramod explicitly mentioned that the company was responsible for his decision. He said that he was struggling to hit his sales targets and was being denied promotions. He also asked his ultimate boss VG Siddhartha, founder and owner of Coffee Day Enterprises to remove “sales days.”

The note read: Also, there is too much of sales pressure in the Coffee Day. If we do not meet their target, they withheld our salaries. How can we arrange for lakhs of rupees? All are working for the sake of making their ends meet, for the daily bread. But with these conditions how do we even work?

Chinnu and Muddu, please forgive me. I request Siddarth Sir to help my son for his studies and my wife for a living. Please ask them not to have “sales day”.

On the surface, it seems like an isolated incident with an upset employee. But news of his suicide sent ripples across cafe managers as they knew what he meant when he spoke of struggling with sales targets. “There are some special days like New Year’s Eve, Valentines Day, Friendship Day where they have much higher targets,” says Sandeep Reddy, a former CCD area manager. He gives an example of how sales pressure works on these days. “Valentine’s Day, they’ll get love mugs. For Friendship Day, they’ll have friendship mugs. There is a regional manager who will give this target which will be given to the city manager who will distribute it to others.”

“So the problem is these are fancy things and people see them everywhere.

AUTHOR

Shashidhar KJ

Shashidhar has been a journalist for over six years and has worked with The Times of India, The Financial Express and MediaNama, his last assignment. He is a fine bloke, and by that, I mean unusually quiet. Over the years, Shashidhar has written on several subjects. Banking, startups and technology, media, and also financial technology. He started his career on the desk at the old lady of Boribunder. At The Ken, Shashidhar works out of Mumbai and writes on telecom and financial technology. What he really wants to talk about though is his vinyl collection.

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