A Roaring Success
The impressive Leeu Collection in Franschhoek comprises a large part of this picturesque village in the Cape Winelands. Leeu Estates, Leeu House, Le Quartier Français, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, Marigold Restaurant, and Tuk Tuk Microbrewery are all part of this remarkable brand. The man behind the Leeu marque is Analjit Singh, a highly respected businessman from New Delhi, India.
Singh, who made his fortune founding the incredibly successful conglomerate, Max Group, has recently stepped down from his role of chairman and is now spending his time, energy, and focus on building the Leeu Collection.
Leeu, as well as being the Afrikaans word for “lion”, is the Sanskrit derivation of Singh, and is the perfect link between Singh’s newly found love for South Africa and the man himself.
After encountering Franschhoek almost accidently seven years ago during his first visit to South Africa, he gave himself over to the hands of fate, believing wholeheartedly that the sense of belonging he felt was nothing short of destiny.
SLOW spoke to Singh (A.S) about his developments in South Africa and other parts of the world, and what it feels like to have replaced the “business of life” with the “pleasures of life”.
In 2010 you came to South Africa for the Fifa World Cup, and two years later made your maiden investment in the valley of Franschhoek. Can you tell us a bit about how this happened and why you think you felt that such a deep sense of belonging in the valley?
A.S: This was serendipity and destiny at its very best. I hadn’t stepped foot onto the continent of Africa until then. Actually, I don’t even recall having any contact with any country on the continent until this point. The only point of reference was perhaps geography lessons in school. I was initially spellbound by the beauty of the Franschhoek Valley and the Winelands – the nature, lifestyle, peacefulness of the environment, air quality, and so on. But I realised very soon there was much more to it. The nature of the people in the Cape and their warmth became very close to my heart.
The Leeu Collection started off with your initial purchases of the 40-ha farm Klein Dassenberg, and the two adjoining farms, Dieu Donné and Von Ortloff, to form Leeu Estates. It has since grown in leaps and bounds in the small valley of Franschhoek, and the Leeu touch is everywhere. What made you decide to expand?
A.S: Well, one thing led to another. I guess it has been a case of following one’s nose and heart. And there is nothing wrong in that. In fact, it is “all good” – a lovely new expression I have learnt from those close to me in Franschhoek.
What has the response from the local business owners residents in Franschhoek?
A.S: Overall, very welcoming and congratulatory, and I appreciate that a lot. That said, we have been noisy in the village over the last couple of years, building and renovating, and I am grateful for the patience the community has shown. We are generally quietening things down now.
Do you have any plans expanding further?
A.S: Yes. We are very keen to do a boutique hotel in Cape Town, and we also acquired hotels in London and Florence during the past months. Locally, we are been and of looking forward to opening Le Quartier Français after its refurbishment, launching a gin and speciality tonics, opening La Petite Colombe in Le Quartier Français, and expansions at Leeu Estates and Leeu House. We are also refurbishing Linthwaite House in [England’s] Lake District, which will reopen in December.
What do you free time?
A.S: My work is pleasure for me. Plus, I love spending time with my team and colleagues. I am a great believer in “we” not “I”. I also enjoy landscaping, horticulture, design, walking, and nature. I am a hills and mountain chap, more than a beach person. In all this I find spirituality. Finally, it is easy to tempt me with a glass of something close to sunset.
Who or what inspires you the most? A.S: Teachings from saints and sages, my own journey, truth, and a few very special people in my life.
Lastly, what advice do you have for those passionate about getting involved in the hospitality industry?
A.S: The advice is the same for hospitality or any other sector: find your connection and passion. Work very hard. Be focused. Business is not only about money. Community-building and building individuals is an integral part. Making money is one thing, but it is what you do with it that is the key.
A lion of a man, Singh has certainly made a roaring success in the Cape Winelands.
For more information on the Leeu Collection, visit www.leeucollection.com. like to do in your