Offbeat Career : Business of Bouncers

Bouncers are possibly some of the least understood professionals in the world. For anyone who has visited a bar, nightclub or concerts, encountering a bouncer is a pretty common sight. These imposing individuals are there to ensure that aggressive behaviour is kept in check, people don’t drink and get out of hand, and overall order is maintained. The security of the venue is completely their responsibility.

Unfortunately, despite having a long and storied legacy starting from being trusted lieutenants to the Roman aristocracy to their current day modern avatar, bouncers are often viewed as ‘jock’ stereotypes who are quick to anger, and who won’t hesitate to pick up a fight with patrons at the slightest provocation. There is a shroud of mystery around them, as not much is known about the profession. Corporate Citizen pulls the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating and closely guarded professions, in an exclusive feature.

Sanjay Shelar is a very busy man. He is the founder and chief enforcer of Bouncers Club, one of the top private security firms in Pune, employing over 50 regular bouncers and over 200 part time ones. When we left to meet him for an interview, we had no idea what to expect. Despite being physically imposing, the first thing that came across when we met him was his warm smile and impeccable manners. “Bouncers are often viewed as rude and arrogant, but nothing could be further from the truth”, he says. “Most bouncers are shy and private people, but once they open up, you can get along like a house on fire.”

What made him want to become a bouncer, we ask, to which he quips, “I have been in the health industry for over a decade now. As a professional trainer, moving to the bouncers business was a natural transition. Over 70% of bouncers start off as gym instructors or as bodybuilders, and then move to the bouncers business”

So what are the requirements to be a bouncer? “In addition to being physically fit, bouncers must be proficient in some form of martial arts like Judo, Karate or Krav Maga. They have to be at the peak of fitness to ensure the safety of their patrons. They also need to acquire a government mandated ‘Security & Bodyguards’ license. We have to follow a rigorous routine to maintain peak body condition. When training aspiring bouncers, we make them trek three to four times a week, do strength training three times a week, cardio training every other day and martial arts and kick boxing three times a week. They have to pay special attention to their diet as well, which includes eating over 16 egg whites a day, eating over 1 Kg of chicken (if they eat meat), maintaining a high protein low carb diet, and staying off fattening foods as well as alcohol. Sometimes, all we want to do is have a slice of chocolate cake, but we have to control ourselves for the sake of our health. This profession requires tremendous discipline and self-control.

As we are talking, another well-built individual walks in with tea and snacks for us. Sanjay introduces him as Ajinkya Kulkarni, one of his best bouncers. We ask him whether he loves his job. “It’s a lot of fun,” he replies. “We get unrestricted entry to the biggest parties, we get to travel and meet so many people, and best of all we get to work with top celebrities and big shots. A few months back, I provided security to Honey Singh for his concert in Pune. He is quite a relaxed guy to hang out with. It was a lot of fun.”

Does being a bouncer pay well? we ask bluntly. “I’m not complaining,” he replies. “For every gig, we get paid anywhere from Rs 1500-5000 per person, and there are around four to five events every week, so that comes to a very decent amount.” Ajinkya gets a call, and requests to be excused; we thank him for his candour as he leaves.

As the head of a successful security company, we ask Sanjay what it takes to succeed in the business. “The bouncers business is a lot like any other business vertical. You need to supply a wellequipped training facility for your employees and health professionals who monitor their health regularly. Initially, I invested about `10 lakh. The most important requirement to succeed in the business, however, is having good contacts. You need to network a lot and pitch your company to party organizers, hospitals, celebrities and politicians, every opportunity you get.” explains Sanjay. “Today, Bouncers Club is a well known company, and organizers come to us with assignments. You need tenacity and a whole lot of perseverance to stay in the business.”

Asked if he has any plans to expand, he replies in the positive. “Definitely. Today we are a big name in Pune, and breaking new ground in Mumbai. We have tied up with many training facilities across Maharashtra to provide our services in key markets like Nagpur, Latur, Kolhapur and Sangli. In the next two to three years, we are looking to set up base in Goa as well, which is a very lucrative market due to its vibrant party culture.

One often hears incidents where bouncers get into trouble for misbehaving or excessive use of force. We prod Sanjay about any skirmishes he might have had during his tenure as a bouncer. “Sometimes, use of force is inevitable.” He replies seriously. “There was once an Incident at a high profile party in Pune, where a group of rowdy men started a bar fight. If we hadn’t acted swiftly and intercepted them, a lot of people could have been hurt. As a bouncer, sometimes you have to take the call about how to handle the situation, and over time, we have learnt to trust our instincts. When the bouncers’ trend started in India in the 1990s, the police were wary of us. They looked at us as more of a hindrance than an asset. Today, mindsets have changed. The police are already stretched thin, and can’t provide security at every venue. They have, over time, come to respect us as people who strive for the same thing that they do – to maintain peace.

We ask if the bouncers business is a boy’s only club, a statement which he vehemently denies. “This is another myth about bouncers, that it is misogynistic and for men only. In fact, there are many events which primarily require women bouncers. For example, hospitals, women’s political events, etc, where it is more comfortable to have lady bouncers. Earlier, not many ladies would have considered this profession seriously, but mindsets have changed for the better.

We decide to conclude by asking him his financial targets for FY2015. “This promises to be an exciting year,” he says. “With the World cup and IPL season around the corner, there will be many sports themed events, which is peak season for us. We hope to do booming business this year”

By Neeraj Varty