As a child, Gurdeep Singh Chadha, alias Ponty Chadha, would sell snacks with his father outside a country liquor shop. He later went on to become the biggest liquor baron Uttar Pradesh had ever seen.
Five years after stepping into the business, Ponty managed to gain a monopoly over the lucrative business across UP - first in wholesale trade and then in retail.
Ponty gained a foothold in the state's liquor business in 2007 when he started expanding his father's wholesale liquor business in Moradabad, Bareilly, Ghaziabad and adjoining districts. By getting the Meerut division converted into a special excise zone, he started monopolising the region's wholesale liquor business.
Gradually, he made inroads into the retail market.
"Before his business expanded, the government would award retail contracts at the district level. Ponty, however, started subletting the contracts himself," said Kanya Lal Maurya, general secretary, Lucknow Sharab Association.
In 2009, the then BSP government handed Ponty wholesale liquor distribution rights across the state. "This was the first such case across the country where an individual was given complete control over the distribution of liquor in a state," Maurya said.
The deal ruffled many a feather. Many alleged Ponty got the contract at a low price because he was close to then UP chief minister Mayawati.
"Such was this monopoly that he had final say over both the type and volume of liquor that companies could supply to retail outlets in the state. He started deciding the prices as well," Neeraj Jaiswal, a liquor trader said.
Nowhere else could a single player sell liquor directly to retailers. Ponty made it common practice to buy stocks from companies at discounted prices and sell them to retailers for a premium, traders said.
"There are many retail outlets in the state where only Wave, his brand of beer, was promoted," another trader said. Besides beer, he also owned rum, whiskey and vodka brands.
In 2011, when Ponty's monopoly became common knowledge, many rival players protested. Liquor retailers from 32 districts of UP participated in a mock funeral in Lucknow.