PRINCE SURYAJIT SINGH of Kapurthala, 34, is at ease in the jewel-box like surroundings of the New Delhi home he shares with his father, Tikka Shatrujit Singh, son of Brigadier Sukhjit Singh, the Maharaja of Kapurthala. He is poised and patient, even as he rearranges some sofas in the living room to get the right colour tones for the shoot and orders pizza for the crew. Carrying forward his family’s luxury legacy, Suryajit is at the helm of two businesses, private jet aviation and luxury brand consultancy, and shuttles between London and New Delhi.

Headstart with LV

Growing up in Delhi, Suryajit attended Doon School, where he made lifelong friends. Armed with a B.A. in Economics (with a Minor in Art History) from Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, the land of the Amish people, he started looking for his first job in the U.S. In New York, a chance interview with Valerie Chapaloud, Louis Vuitton’s Head of the Americas, led to a job at the brand most dear to his family, Louis Vuitton. “My ancestors indulged in the brand. Seeing a variety of vintage trunks personalised for my great-great-grandfather (Maharaja Jagatjit Singhji of Kapurthala), I grew up not only with appreciation of its heritage and savoir-faire, but also developed a curiosity for the brand,” he says. Maharaja Jagatjit Singhji was a Francophile who built Jagatjit Palace, a copy of the Palace of Versailles, in Kapurthala, and had around 60 trunks for his robes, shoes, coats and swords made by Louis Vuitton. Suryajit was 14 in 2004 when this maison entered India and would often meet CEO Yves Carcelle, a friend of Tikka Shatrujit, when he was visiting the country.

“My job, on the shop floor of Louis Vuitton’s Manhattan store, was humbling,” says Suryajit. “It let me combine the macro knowledge I had thanks to my father with details of retail to create strategies for U.S.’ North-East region — which had 20+ stores and generated $400 million that time — which secured a double-digit growth target year-on-year.” He then found himself in London, with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “My mentor Geoffroy Van Raemdonck (who was head of Ralph Lauren Europe and is today CEO of Neiman Marcus/Bergdorf Goodman) gave me the chance to join the team where we were dedicated to driving retail experience and U.K. and European store performance to a $300 million business,” he says. Suryajit later joined VistaJet, one of the most famous private jet companies, and proved that business performance and client development skills are transferable and equally impactful across the luxury industry.

The state sword handle of the Maharaja of Kapurthala hand-crafted by 
Indian artisans
The state sword handle of the Maharaja of Kapurthala hand-crafted by Indian artisans

Today, Suryajit has landed a unique role as partner in a U.K.-based boutique private jet advisory and brokerage MaceAero (named after his partner Chris Mace), which focuses on buying and selling aircraft, providing ad-hoc charter services and advising HNIs and corporates on optimum flying solutions.

Luxury’s India Call

Simultaneously, Suryajit is involved in boutique luxury consultancy JMC (Jeet Management Consulting), which his father started 40 years ago. It handles luxury brands (like Cartier) as CEOs and owners like Domenico Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana and Bruno Cucinelli of their respective eponymous fashion brands engage with Suryajit’s father.

“With luxury finally getting the attention it needs to fulfil its potential from India and Indians globally, it’s the perfect time for me to be between Europe and India,” he says. Suryajit is currently advising a few brands and projects, including J.Lindeberg, a luxury Swedish sports and fashion brand that’s in demand among the country’s golfers and is often bought at the flagship store in Dubai Mall. “There’s a lot of interest in India from Richemont, Kering, LVMH, and the Chalhoub Group,” says Suryajit.

And while his business has focussed primarily on bringing Western luxury brands to India, Suryajit says over the last couple of years, it’s hard to ignore the strength and confidence of Indian luxury brands, especially their craftsmanship and vision. “We’ve got designers such as Gaurav Gupta dressing Beyoncé several times now, Rahul Mishra stealing the spotlight in Paris, Sabyasachi opening stores in New York, design studio Janavi’s incredible cashmere items at Bergdorf Goodman and Selfridges, and organic sustainable brand like Forest Essentials and concepts like Nappa Dori not shying away from testing new markets and telling their story,” he says.

Louis Vuitton trunks of Maharaja Jagatjit Singhji, Suryajit Singh’s great-great-grandfather
Louis Vuitton trunks of Maharaja Jagatjit Singhji, Suryajit Singh’s great-great-grandfather

Suryajit says his favourite mentor is his father. “His guidance has always been to work hard and have fun (as life can be too short). He likes to keep things simple, like his advice to me. I’m always in admiration of his humility, curiosity and love and genuine interest in people.”

Opulent Days of Legacy Past

Maharaja Jagatjit Singhji of Kapurthala served some of the finest French wines and champagnes at tasteful dinner parties and owned custom-made wardrobes and watches by some of the best craftsmen of his time, many of whom are now the world’s top luxury brands. “He personally knew Mr. Hermès, who made his saddles, Mr. Louis Vuitton, who made his trunks, and Jacques Cartier, who made his jewellery,” says Suryajit. “His son (Maharaja Paramjit Singhji), too, spent lavishly shopping for European luxury goods. My grandfather, Brigadier Sukhjit Singhji, has preserved the homes built by his grandfather and kept them as private residences—except for the main family palace, which he gave to the Army.” Suryajit says that these palaces, which are also lived-in homes, are like museums.

The family is doing its bit to preserve its heritage. “Our income today is not what our ancestors had,” says Suryajit. “Following Maharaja Jagatjit Singhji’s vision to give back to his people brings us joy. He was inclusive. Building a Moorish mosque as a Sikh ruler because a majority of the state was Muslim, a temple for Hindus and setting up schools to provide women education highlights his desire to uplift his state.”

The Maharani Gita Devi Trust started by his father preserves the architectural contributions made by Maharaja Jagatjit Singhji for his state and looks to do more for Kapurthala in the years ahead. It will also honour and take forward the philanthropic efforts of Suryajit’s late grandmother, whom it’s named after. “I have been trained and exposed to philanthropy and preservation of heritage from a young age and feel it is my duty to continue these efforts as the ‘next-gen prince’ of Kapurthala,” says Suryajit. “My grandmother dedicated her life to others, whether it was care for people she met in her life or going daily to the not-for-profit DCWA Hospital as their chairwoman at 85 to ensure the poor are getting the help they need. She was humble to the core and proud of Indian customs and traditions.”

His Time Is Now

Suryajit wears his rich heritage effortlessly. “My role for Kapurthala comes with a different level of responsibilities from those of my ancestors,” he says. “I can take on the exciting challenge of a modern corporate journey, allowing me to work with unique clients and businesses, where I continue to fulfil my curiosity and passion for luxury heritage.”

When in India, he covets time with his father, as well as his friends from school. “They complete me,” he says. And in London, he enjoys attending football matches (when Tottenham Hotspur is winning, of course), dabbling in the kitchen (he loves to dine on Japanese and Italian cuisine in London) and even sampling music. He has a special tradition with his father; they have attended each football Euro Cup and World Cup since 2004. Suryajit also plays the odd round of golf every now and then. “Luxury is relative. Being in nature is a luxury that I cherish,” he says.

As for his personal style, he likes to wear what’s comfortable (for this shoot, he donned a Ralph Lauren suit and a Raghavendra Rathore bandhgala). “I’m blue and white in the day, and black at night, a bit boring, some would say. I’m more focussed on the business of fashion and luxury than being a fashionista myself.”

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