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Of Reds and wine

Entrepreneur Sunil Thakur was termed a loser before he found his feet in hospitality

Sunil Thakur (left) gets a Manchester United jersey autographed by Ryan Giggs
Sunil Thakur (left) gets a Manchester United jersey autographed by Ryan Giggs

The year 2007 was a turbulent period in the United States. Among the Americans, who endured the pain of being rendered jobless by the recession, was an Indian who came back to India against family advice. He couldn't bag a decent job and was termed a loser — until he started his own business. He ticked another item off his wish list, when he became a prominent member of Manchester United Fan Club of Mumbai (MUFCM) — the president of the Manchester United Supporter's Club. Sunil Thakur (35) dodged several bullets en route to the life of a pub-owner.

"My father passed away when I was young. My family had a restaurant business, but they wanted me to get a job abroad. I worked for General Motors. I was happy, throwing house parties and meeting new people, till the slump hit automobile firms in USA and I lost my job," says Thakur, the holder of 3 Wise Monkeys, a sports-themed watering hole with branches in Khar and Vashi.

Odd jobs
Initially, Thakur had to struggle in a consulting firm to keep himself afloat. "I visited one of my cousin's hotels to learn business. I quit my job soon to run an unofficial Manchester United fan club and started looking for a place to set up my own pub," recalls Thakur. His ambitious tales (with a drink in hand) were not entertained. "One day, my sister-in-law called me an alcoholic without an aim in life," he reveals. It hit him hard.

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes (centre) with members of MUFCM
Manchester United legend Paul Scholes (centre) with members of MUFCM

"I would roam around with brokers to look for property, but even they started avoiding my calls," he says. One evening, he stepped on to the wooden floor of 3 Wise Monkeys by chance. A chat over a cigarette with the then owner, who was looking for a business partner, changed his fortunes overnight.

Meeting the legends
Thakur had an opportunity to meet Manchester United legends Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs during the Premier Futsal tournament recently. "I had written a letter to them and hoped somebody would deliver. But they shifted hotels and I thought it didn't reach them. The next day, I barged through the security to meet Scholes. He said he had read my letter and was looking to contact me but I had not left a phone number," says Thakur, who couldn't hold his tears. He led the fans to their hotel (upon invitation from Scholes) for an interactive session. Thakur recently witnessed Manchester United games in UK. If you ever happen to visit the pub and spot a middle-aged man in three-fourths, that's him.

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