Call me Surya,” says the dashing scion of the Kapurthala family, as he takes a sip of tea from a cup, part of a beautiful set that bears his family crest. We catch Suryajit Singh at his family home in Delhi, amid a demanding schedule straddling multiple professional roles.
As a partner in private jet company Mace Aero, Surya is based in London for six months of the year and shuttles between Delhi and Mumbai for the remainder period, working to expand his luxury consultancy, JMC Pvt. Ltd. This constant jet-setting may faze the best of us, but Surya is poised and charming, characteristic of his royal antecedents.
“We’re a very close family, and I really cherish my time with them as I’ve been away from home since my boarding school days,” he says, referring to his time spent at home.
As the son of Tikka Shatrujit Singh – the man known for redefining India’s relations with global luxury houses in a contemporary context – and great-grandson of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh – the forward-thinking cultural preservationist and avid traveller – Surya admits that his passion for luxury is ingrained.
“Luxury was in the DNA of my ancestors. They had a savoir faire that allowed them to appreciate the finer things in life without treating them merely as indulgences,” he asserts. “Yet, at the same time, they were vested in grounding us children and teaching us the importance of humility.”
The young royal credits the latter especially to his grandmother, Maharani Gita Devi, whose life has been committed to philanthropy and service. Moreover, following in the footsteps of his ancestors, he takes the role of preserving his heritage and culture very seriously.
“My grandfather and father are doing all they can to spread awareness and preserve the unique heritage of Kapurthala. The family homes are still owned privately, and the local monuments are supported by a family trust. I cherish their inclusive vision as they treat everyone equally, with no discrimination,” he says, sharing examples of the trust initiated to preserve the mosque in Kapurthala commissioned by a Sikh maharaja, and their early encouragement of education of women.
Now, Surya is earnestly learning the ropes because he feels, “If we don’t preserve this heritage, we won’t be able to share it with others. It’s important for us to remember that we are not ‘maharajas’ in a modern context, but the preservation of our heritage is entirely up to us. Our country is culturally very rich, and there are incredible stories to share. It’s a privilege afforded to us but also our responsibility.”
It’s the awareness of his legacy, coupled with his knowledge of the inner workings of luxury brands that Surya uses to his advantage in his role as the Managing Director of JMC Pvt Ltd.
“I’m working on amplifying what we’ve already been doing for the past few decades and adding new verticals, new services, new knowledge by leveraging my decade-long corporate experience of working with luxury brands. We also just launched an exclusive referral-only concierge service for our global network. It will be by-invitation only,” he says.
Surya details the interesting journey that brought him to this juncture. From Delhi’s tony Vasant Valley School, he moved to The Doon School in Dehradun, following in his father’s footsteps. Next, he pursued an economics degree with a minor in art history at Franklin & Marshall College, a liberal arts school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, known as the ‘heartland of the
Amish’, away from big cities and a fast-paced life. Till this point in time, Surya admits to being sheltered by his father to an extent, but things soon changed. He shares with a candour that’s rare for one his age, “I think maybe I took things for granted. I just assumed I’d work with my dad or in the luxury space, but he wanted me to find my own way.”
So, though he began his career at the hallowed offices of luxury conglomerate LVMH, it wasn’t in a plum corporate role.
“I started on the shop floor in Louis Vuitton’s Fifth Avenue store in New York. I was on a sales associate’s salary in a very expensive city! We had no fixed days off as the store is open all week. This made it challenging to coordinate weekend plans with friends. But it was also great fun as it helped me discover a secret version of NYC. The role was the best training and perspective I could have received in luxury retail, watching up close how business is actually done,” he shares.
His time here certainly paid off, as he swiftly climbed the corporate ladder with the brand and achieved his goal of financial independence at a young age. Surya then moved to Ralph Lauren in London as their Director of Retail Performance — at just 26!
“It was a tough decision for me to leave LVMH because of our ancestral relationship with the brand,” he recalls. “But I felt I had to prioritise my career. I was hungry for the challenge, but I was also the youngest director of the company. Plus, I was Indian. So I really had to prove myself by performing above expectations. Fortunately, I had learnt a strong work ethic from my time in New York and was blessed with an incredibly talented team to support me.”
From Ralph Lauren, Surya diversified to the quickly expanding arena of luxury private airlines. After a stint at popular private jet charter service VistaJet, he joined Chris Mace at Mace Aero, while simultaneously channelling the knowledge he picked up along the way into JMC.
“This is the best time for us to focus on growing JMC. It’s a very exciting time for business in India, so many luxury brands in varying fields are looking to enter the market. They need our specialised knowledge to help them navigate their entry,” he explains.
When he isn’t working, Surya loves to unwind with his childhood friends, with whom he shares an indelible bond. As an avid sports lover, he also enjoys frequent rounds of golf, as it allows him to “be in touch with nature”. And when in Delhi, he plays a co-ed football game twice a week with his buddies.
Surya is also a big travel enthusiast. His greatest adventures since 2004 have been attending every single FIFA World Cup and Euro Cup with his father and close family friends.
“We are crazy about football, of course, but it’s also a great way to experience a new country. We’ve been to Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Brazil, South Africa and so many beautiful other places. Watching the last FIFA World Cup final in Qatar was surreal!”
Another trip he takes annually is to a wellness retreat in India or abroad, which serves as the spiritual balm to his soul. Travel for work also keeps him on his toes, as he attends the best events in the luxury space around the globe. In fact, a day after our chat, he dashed off to Mumbai for Dior’s Fall 2023 show, as well as the opening of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre.
Ask the eligible bachelor what’s next on the cards, and he responds with a smile: “Currently, I’m in the process of reconnecting with my culture and my heritage as I spend more time in India. Let’s see what happens next!”
Photos: Raju Raman; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari
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