Vasanth Poovaiah,45,is brawny,commanding and has superlative reflexes all of which makes him well-suited for his job,that of a bouncer. In Bangalore,where Poovaiah is based,demand for this particular type of personal security professionals has shot through the roof. These days,everybody wants bouncers, says the former NSG commando whose team has been guarding a once-popular singer.
Our business of supplying bouncers is booming,and outdoing our security guards business, says Bharath Sairam,managing director of Black Cat Security Service,for which Poovaiah works.
Not just industrialists,real-estate tycoons and the rich but also politicians employ long-term bouncers,says Sairam. At this time,23 bouncers from his agency are placed with various people,some for the past two years or more. Our main business is not the erratic rent-a-bouncer for a visiting celebrity but catering to those who want 24X7 personal security through the year, he says.
T V Mohandas Pai,the former CFO of Infosys who now heads Manipal Foundation,calls it an indication of the changed times. There are many goons around who demand money.
Pai says he knows several wealthy people who surround themselves with bouncers and armed personal security as they feel vulnerable. He himself has never used bouncers,he adds. I am too much of a lightweight.
Bouncers came to the scene during the pub boom in Bangalore in the 1980s and 1990s,when hefty,moustachioed men were hired to keep unruly drunks under check. But the trend has changed and pubs these days use technology such as CCTVs and keep bouncers behind the scenes.
And now they are showing up in the unlikeliest of places,says Sairam. An industrialist involved in a messy litigation has hired bouncers until the legal matter is settled. A minister in Karnataka hired a team of bouncers to add to the posse of policemen already guarding him,as he felt that arrangement was inadequate. A politician got a group of bouncers for his daughter so she could marry the man of her choice despite opposition from his family.
About a year ago,one of Bangalores biggest real-estate tycoons,Dayananda Pai,was attacked on his way to an engineering college he runs in southern Bangalore. Two men on a motorcycle fired several rounds at Pai,and it was only the thick glass of his luxury car that saved him. As real-estate prices rise to stratospheric levels in and around Bangalore,attacks such as these on real estate developers have become common.
There is a recurring trend of company promoters who face employee problems also hiring bouncers,says Colonel Ravi Mannadiar,CEO of the fairly large Bangalore-based security agency Black Belt Commandos. Currently 24 of its bouncers are on hire. A frail-looking regular guard does not impress but the very sight of a muscled bouncer can send jitters, he says.
The company sources these bouncers from akhadas (wrestling centres) of Punjab,as well as Rajasthan and Maharashtra,and deploys them to guard celebrities,real-estate developers and foreign executives visiting India.
Among Bangalores high-flyers known to flaunt bouncers,usually foreign ones,is Vijay Mallya of the UB Group.
The demand is so high that bouncers easily make three to four times the salary of a regular security guard. If a security guard is paid Rs 12,000 a month on an average,a bouncer can make upwards of 40,000 a month. These days,your BA or similar degree wont land you a job,but if you get trained to be a bouncer,you can easily get recruited on a Rs 40,000 salary, says Poovaiah,the bouncer.
Armed bouncers,or personal security officers as the term goes,are also in great demand. These are mostly ex-servicemen with their own licensed firearms.
Then there are those who use bouncers to cordon themselves off in public,mainly builders and politicians. This is more about feeling self-important and impressing others than any real or perceived threat, says Col Mannadiar of Black Belt.