Picture this. A salesman rings a doorbell. He has neatly sidestepped the security with a smile and an air of elegance. Along with some distracting paraphernalia such as newspapers etc. , arrives his client's signature choice of hot and hard drinks.
As police vigil steps up, Ahmedabad's bootleggers have to see their steps do not get the least tipsy. These new age vendors now resemble young entrepreneurs as the state-wide network that supplies all brands of liquor to Gujarat's households expand.
One common tool carried is the laptop. These vendors use laptops to keep an eye on their clientele and stock. The next are mobile phones. Yes, the plural. They have at least three or four mobile phones to keep apart 'social' and 'professional' lives. They have their fingers dipped in an array of pies such as the share market and real estate, too.
These hi-tech illicit sellers have bagged a huge customer base in urban and sub-urban centers of the state. Part of a fast-growing industry, their worth is pinned down at Rs 200 crore in Gujarat.
Not that their customers are protesting. Take Amit Patel, a senior corporate executive who loves his evening pegs. For Amit, getting his regular supply of liquor right in time, with just a SMS is money well spent. Raju, who supplies his favorite brand Aristocrat, has never let him down. Raju has allocated Amit a six-digit number by which he has to correspond with his supplier.
Suave Michael Patel, a prominent liquor supplier recollects:" I started very small - supplying liquor to friends. Business grew steadily and today I have a clientele of more than 1,500 with a net profit of Rs 8 lakh per month."
Michael uses a slim, expensive laptop to keep tabs on his flourishing business. A special software allows him to keep accounts complete with customer preferences and stock inventories.
Another one is Dariapur-based Mohammed Salim. "I deal only in premium liquor brands ranging from Rs 750 to Rs 2000. The margin on such products is more and the risk is worth taking, as compared to the middle range products," he confides.
Yet Salim bemoans the fact that out of his hefty income, a prominent chunk goes to the cops.
"We collectively give almost 10 lakh in a police station where the money is distributed from a PI to head constable. You cannot run such a big chain without help from men in khakis. We sometimes do them favor, help them in rough weather and they return the favour. Sometimes they have to show the seizure, so, we give them what they want to show on record," another bigwig liquor vendor, Ramesh Vyas, says.