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Cane, paper, liquor ...malls and movies

lucknow Updated: Nov 17, 2012 15:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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This story was published in Hindustan Times in February 2012. Ponty Chadha and his brother were shot dead on November 17, 2012.

Gurdeep Singh Chadha, better known by his nickname Ponty, 58, heads the privately-held Wave Group, which controls the wholesale liquor trade and around 4,000 retail liquor shops in UP.

But the empire with a turnover of Rs6,000 crore, which has interests in sugar, real estate and film distribution, had a humble beginning — a single cane crushing unit in Moradabad set up in the early 1960s by Ponty’s father Kulwant Singh Chadha.

Around Independence, Kulwant Singh reportedly migrated from Pakistan to Amritsar, where he started a small business. From Amritsar, he moved to Ramnagar near Nainital and finally, in the early 1960s, he settled in Moradabad.

After the cane crushing unit, he entered liquor retailing and from Moradabad, the business spread to Rampur, Najibabad, Bijnore. He also set up a paper mill near Rampur.

As his father’s health deteriorated, Ponty, the eldest son, started managing the business, while siblings Rajinder and Hardeep functioned as associates in the group’s business.

Under him, the group rose to dizzy heights, aided by some controversial policies of the Uttar Pradesh government. In fact, Ponty found favour with every government in Uttar Pradesh and is reportedly close to top politicians in Punjab and Delhi as well.

The business began expanding rapidly since 2000, with diversification into mining, sugar mills, multiplexes and malls in UP and Punjab.

The last five years have been particularly good, with liquor, sugar, movies and real estate ventures booming. Around this time the groundwork was laid for the ultra-modern Wave City project in Noida and he also started his own liquor brand.

But controversy was not far behind. Ponty’s name figured in the Uttar Pradesh assembly over monopoly of liquor wholesale business and the sale of government-owned sugar mills at throwaway prices — Rs206 crore against their reported value of Rs2,000 crore.

Even the CAG had criticised the UP government over the latter charge.

There were also allegations that liquor bottles were being sold at a premium over their listed prices and that the resultant profits were being shared with some very powerful politicians.