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How this young maharaja plans to go from traditional to modern

Last updated on: August 13, 2012 12:14 IST

How this young maharaja plans to go from traditional to modern

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Samarjit Sinh Gaekwad is the new King of Baroda, whose passion for golf and cricket have him seen more in sport gear than traditional maharaja clothing. With the very stunning Laxmi Vilas Palace as his home and a gorgeous golf course as its backdrop, Samarjit is now on a mission to turn this rare combination into a golf destination and hopes to rope in a five star hotel to manage it. In this rapid fire chat on Tee Time with Shaili Chopra on ETNOW the young maharaja shares his childhood memories and talks of going from traditional to modern. Today he is converting his passions in golf, cricket and business into a real opportunity.

You recent took charge of the empire as the King, how are you planning to expand your empire? With this sprawling property at hand, how best are you putting it to use?

We are looking to convert our palace into a five star property and move out of here. It's just too big for a small family like mine. I want to bring in a high end hotel partner to lease this Palace in Baroda because our unique combination of a golf course and palace is a rare facet of what we can offer.

It's targeting to become a destination stop. Baroda is a beautiful city and we are in a unique position to build a destination around here with a regal experience at the Palace. I am also working on expanding our golf property into a full-fledged eighteen-hole course. I am speaking to golf designers as well.

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What was the turning point in your career? 

Realised that farming was not meant for me when sport and alternate use of land resulted in offering me an opportunity to build a golf course against the backdrop of the amazing Laxmi Vilas Palace in Baroda. I always wanted to do a business associated with sport and golf is a great industry to be in.

Farming was something we did as part of our tradition and although it was a good business I decided as a sportsman myself I wanted to go beyond.

Today I not only have this exclusive beautiful property but I also have in  depth knowledge of building a golf course, the operations and the understanding of how a course property needs to flourish and maintained.

Your first day at work was not as a maharaja but as a regular worker at a factory- how was the experience? 

First day at work was in Mumbai at a two wheeler factory.  I recall the orientation wherein I was given to push sales wherever companies with better products were dominating the markets.  It looked a tough situation to pull off.

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Image: The maharaja with Shaili Chopra.


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How this young maharaja plans to go from traditional to modern

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To date, what is your proudest golf accomplishment? 

I recall two such proud accomplishments.

  • Shooting my only ACE at the DLF golf club on Hole # 8.
  • Playing a two over round at the challenging Links course at Fancourt, South Africa.

What experience on the golf course do you consider most memorable and why? 

I had the privilege of being Gary player's guest at the 2011 Augusta Masters.  It was special.

What does leadership mean to you? 

Being a reformist & seeing ten steps ahead of the rest.

You are about eight people living in that stunning palace. Surely growing up in acres and acres of land, amidst royalty, a kingdom of sorts must have left amazing memories. Can you share a few anecdotes from your early career? 

Early age fun has been living in the huge palace which allowed me to play cricket indoors, ride motorbikes on first floor, walk to a zoo, and get accompanied by a crocodile in a lift! We had a Lion's cage in the palace gardens which also had a door near there that connected to the palace from the below the grounds.

We had lots of dogs a beautiful row of kennels on the grounds. So of course it's been a charming story growing up coupled with its own struggles and challenges. Struggle has been fighting the land laws and bureaucracy in a country like ours.

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Who mentored you and how? 

Had no particular mentor but always admired hard working disciplined and successful sportsman.

Your love for sort started with cricket and is growing with golf. You played for Baroda and have been on several cricket linked associations. How do you react to the changes in cricket today?

I have been playing for many years and cricket i was passionate about. I played for Baroda and then got into cricket management here as well. There are changes one can see in the game. I know IPL is great for the crowds, interest's women and children but I remain a purist who loves traditional cricket. 

What was the first lesson about business you learnt? 

Trust no body with money.

How has golf improved your leadership capabilities? 

Managing people, simplifying problems and being optimistic after a poor shot!

If there was one thing you could change about yourself, what would it be? 

Would have loved to start golf as early as I did with cricket - at 5.

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Photographs: The maharaja with Shaili Chopra.
Tags: Baroda , IPL

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