Entrepreneur Jaisal Singh on Vintage Jeeps, His Family Tailor and Why He Cooks Over an Open Fire on Safari
The scion of a prominent New Delhi family, Jaisal Singh spent much of his childhood on trips to Ranthambore National Park, as his parents Malvika, a leading publisher and author, and Tejbir, a photographer and filmmaker, were passionate conservationists. Having inherited their love of wildlife, Singh launched Suján in 2000, a hospitality business named for his great-great-grandfather who founded trading and real estate company Suján Enterprises in 1881.
His debut project, Suján Sher Bagh, on the edge of what is now Ranthambore National Park, was the first of three highly regarded luxury camps—which today he runs in partnership with his wife, Anjali, an artist and businesswoman—with a keen sense of style and sustainability at the core of their approach. Indeed, Singh’s recently concluded role as vice-chairman of the board of hotel group Relais & Chateaux gave him a global platform for his advocacy of sustainable and regenerative tourism.
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With several notable soldiers in his family tree, Singh is fascinated by Indian military history, before and after Independence. But it’s horses that are vital in his life, and polo is his passion—as a player, a sponsor and an author of a history of the game in India. For many years he played for Jodhpur’s highly successful team, both in India and abroad, and today he captains Suján Indian Tigers, which recently won the coveted 14-goal handicap Sirmour Cup in Jaipur. He lives in New Delhi with his wife and two children.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I have a cup of turmeric infusion made with freshly ground turmeric root and three crushed peppercorns brewed in hot water. It’s a very good tonic, reducing inflammation—which is good, because I play a high-contact sport. It builds immunity; it fights infection.
What apps do you use the most?
WhatsApp and Instagram. We do quite a lot of work on WhatsApp. And Instagram, because I like to see what my friends are up to—everyone’s using it more and more as a tool of communication.
And what do you do that’s still analog?
I read real books. I’m not a Kindle fan. I will carry around a big fat book or multiple books when I travel.
Drive or be driven?
Depends. In Delhi traffic, I like to be driven, mostly in a 5.0-liter petrol V-8, 525 hp Range Rover Autobiography. But if I’m on safari, I drive our Range Rover Sport, an old favorite. I take my collection of vintage and classic Jeeps out every so often, and I inherited a sports car—a supercharged Jaguar XKR—which I drive when the weather is good.
What in your wardrobe do you wear most often?
It depends where I am and what I’m doing. But I’ll often wear a navy blazer.
Who makes your clothes?
I get my suits made by my family tailor, Vaish at Rivoli, here in New Delhi, whose family has made clothes for five generations of my family. I get my shirts made in England by Turnbull & Asser. I’m still wearing shirts that I had made before I married, 17 years ago.
What do you most crave at the end of the working day?
A hot bath, I suppose, with a drink after.
Where do you do your best work?
Probably in my office in New Delhi. But I travel so much, I should say, in beautiful surroundings.
A favorite object?
The art collection I inherited. But also the portrait of my father that I commissioned William Stanton, one of my dearest friends and a very talented portrait artist, to paint at the start of his career.
How much do you trust your gut instincts?
Do you like to cook?
I love to cook. I find it very therapeutic. I’ll make a good spaghetti Bolognese or pappardelle al ragù when at home. Or on safari, I like to cook on an open fire—local, jungle, “wild” recipes, a favorite being junglee maas, a very simple recipe of meat cooked in ghee, whole dried red chilies, garlic and salt.
What was the last piece of advice you gave someone?
Pursue your passion and work at something, ideally, that you really enjoy. Your chances of success are much higher.
And the most important piece of advice you received?
Probably the same.
Your favorite sport?
Polo. I love the connection between man and horse and the whole martial feeling of it. I played my first chukker of competitive polo at age 14 and have been involved ever since.
What do you happily spend money on?
Awesome horses. Horses are integral to my life. The Suján Polo String is based in Delhi but travels throughout India for tournaments, and I have another smaller string near Henley-on-Thames for the British season. My wife and children have horses, predominantly for dressage. And polo gear. It is vital while playing such a fast, high-contact sport to have expertly crafted boots that fit and are very durable.
The most recent thing you regret not buying?
I do not regret not buying anything; I believe what is meant to be yours, will come to you. . .what’s not, won’t.
Who is your dealer and what do they source for you?
I don’t have a dealer as such, but I like collecting beautiful things—be that military memorabilia, wildlife art and Sikh art—and things to which I feel a cultural, historic or aesthetic affinity or connection.
Are you wearing a watch? How many do you own?
No, I am not. I have inherited a few, never bought myself a watch.
Your favorite hotel or hotels?
The Goring in London. I have two favorites in Paris, which are the Bristol and the Saint James.
What music makes you happy?
Depends. John Barry, Strauss, Louis Armstrong, Bob Dylan, traditional Punjabi, Hindustani classical, Sufi, folk musicians of Rajasthan, Sting, Springsteen. And military—especially the pipes and drums.
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