Life | The Time Travellers

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The Time Travellers
Text by Shirin Salwan and Photographs by Pradeep Mahajan
Published: Volume 22, Issue 2, February, 2014

Innovators and entrepreneurs on the outside, this dynamic couple is all about creativity and a penchant for all things beautiful when you look deeper. A tête-à-tête at Yashovardhan and Anu Saboo’s tastefully done up home, leads Shirin Salwan to discover the many facets of the duo behind Ethos, India’s largest chain of premium and luxury watch boutiques

It is a pleasant sunny afternoon with a delicate nip in the air. Nestled amidst a lush green cover of trees in the heart of Chandigarh is the Saboo residence. Walking down the driveway covered with painstakingly landscaped gardens on both sides, I form a mental picture of the couple. Warm and friendly, just as I’d imagined them to be, Yashovardhan and Anu Saboo are nothing like your usual corporate couple. Their love for green is evident early on, from their conversation, as they tell me how they’ve actively participated, won and judged numerous gardening shows in the city. “This was a winter home for my in-laws. The original house was built on stilts with a splendid lake view,” explains Anu , pointing towards the Sukhna Lake which is now overshadowed by buildings that have come up around the area. “A lot of the artefacts have been curated by her and you can see how everything is minimalistic and understated,” she adds.

Their journey began almost 30 years ago, when Yashovardhan founded Kamla Dials and Devices, now called KDDL Limited which became India’s leading manufacturer and exporter of watch components. In a short span of time, he founded his next Indo-Swiss venture – Saboo Berlac, now known as Saboo Coatings Limited, to offer specialty paints and coatings in India. In 2003, he founded Ethos, India’s largest retail chain of luxury and premium watch retail stores. The couple strongly believes that entrepreneurship is an art, not a science; which is perhaps why they devote a lot of time in cultivating their personal interests. “Anu and I are really fond of dancing,” says Yashovardhan, “and we have learnt to salsa professionally.” Gearing up for their son’s wedding, he describes how the family is all set to shake a leg to some traditional Marwari music! Speaking about his love for music, he reminisces that his interest in Indian classical music is inherited from his mother who, as a child in Gwalior, studied under Ustad Hafiz Ali, the father of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. “One of my great regrets is not continuing with the music learning that I started in early childhood. My interest in western classical music developed as a teenager and I am delighted that today my daughter has taken to it and introduces me to much that I have not heard, including opera.”

Being lovers of contemporary art, synergy and simplicity with an underlying tone of luxury resonate within the interiors of the Saboo home. “Among the most memorable experiences of my life have been visits to the Rodin Garden, the Sistine Chapel and to MOMA. I do buy some Indian art from time to time – but never think of it as an investment. If I think I will continue to like it every time I see it on the walls of my home or office, I feel it is a good purchase,” he elaborates. He goes on to add how photography has been a continuing passion and that calligraphy is a budding new hobby.

“I travelled to Europe alone when I was 18 and on my first night there I drank a litre of the cheapest table wine, not knowing what to order. Over the years, thankfully, my taste improved, as I continued to read about the history and mystique of wine, the technique and the mastery required to produce top quality wines and the delight that comes from each new tasting,” explains Yashovardhan who is a self-taught aficionado of wine and has participated in wine tasting sessions in India and Europe. He also founded the Chandigarh Wine Club in 1983. “My favourite wines are mostly from the old world, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont and Priorat,” he adds. “I believe true luxury is contained not in possessing – in fact it is largely true that the value of anything you covet starts to diminish from the time you actually possess it – but in being able to enjoy experiences devoid of possession.”

Besides managing the marketing end of Ethos, Anu finds solace in cooking. To hone her cooking skills, she enrolled in several professional courses at the Ritz in Paris and at Le Cordon Bleu in London. She harbours the dream of opening a café that blends music, art and delectable cuisine. Her love for interiors is evident from the beautifully done up living room area. Everything is harmoniously arranged and thoughtfully placed involving a strong sense of aesthetics. Anu is a perfectionist both at home and at work. Parallel to the growth trajectory of Ethos, her role has diversified over time and she now handles the loyalty programme of Ethos with over 40,000 members, administers the in-house magazine offered to over 7,000 customers, monitors co-operative structure with over 10 distinct brands, organises the ‘mystery shopping’ internal audit platform for the group and coordinates the all-encompassing training sessions – all with élan.

Both Yashovardhan and Anu are avid sport enthusiasts. “I have run 12 half-marathons and hope to run at least a few full marathons while I can. Running long-distance a few days a week while listening to music that I like is the ultimate stress-buster and close to sacred time,” he reveals. “I love the few skiing weekends every year that I manage to sneak in during winter business trips to Switzerland,” he adds.

Perhaps this love for scenic beauty has translated into the open and resplendent ode to nature surrounding their home. The light outside is now perfect and we walk towards the garden area for the final shot. The garden that the couple has done up on their own, offers a picturesque setting. Punctuated with sculptures curated from Jaipur, we freeze on the stone staircase where the charming and energetic couple poses elegantly, with their golden retriever for company.

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