Born in a small village in India to a father who was in the Forest Services, Ajay Naqvi spent most of his childhood in the middle of nature, on the outskirts of a city. However, his true love for nature started materialising after spending 14 years in the corporate world. When he found himself at a crossroads facing a life-changing decision of being with his family or pursuing further career aspirations on a different continent, he chose to give up his high-flyer job and be with his family. Ajay now lives in Romania with his wife and son and has recently purchased a blueberry farm in the countryside.
the Jupital had the opportunity to interview Ajay about his earlier career, his decision to leave the corporate world, move to a new country, start a business and reinvent his life in a way which offers him more flexibility, the chance to spend quality time with his family and achieve a deeper sense of gratification.
the Jupital: How do you portray your corporate life? What were the highlights?
Ajay: I embarked upon a corporate career like a thoroughbred horse – with enthusiasm, energy and drive to succeed. I worked in marketing and advertising with companies such as Ogilvy India, Leo Burnett India, Bates Asia – Singapore and Indonesia, Y&R, Airbnb, and Coca-Cola. I’ve also spent a few years immersing myself into the entrepreneurial world by helping some friends run their business.
the Jupital: How did Romania come into play?
Ajay: I’ve first visited Romania in 2009 when I came to meet my wife’s parents. After spending 3 days in this country, I was head over heels in love with it. However, I had to return to India where I was working at the time while continuing to make visits to Romania. After the birth of my son, the need to be with my family became vital. When my son asked “Papino, when are you going to come live with us?” during a family trip to Disneyland Paris, I knew I had to leave my job in India and join my family in Romania.
the Jupital: How did you become a farmer and how is life in Romania?
Ajay: After I moved to Romania in 2014, my wife and I started making “land-hunting” trips to the countryside. We came up with different ideas – building a holiday home, organic farming, Bed and Breakfast, bee keeping, etc. In 2016 my wife found a farm for sale and we took a chance on it. We made the call, signed the papers and so became landowners. Rural Romania is refreshingly untainted and running a farm in intrinsically related with living in a village. For us, growing blueberries means setting ourselves up for a life where our creativity is truly meaningful. Given the current trend, where people seem to focus on eating healthy, owning a piece of land may be one of the most sustainable ways to achieve this goal.
the Jupital: How is your life now compared to working in a corporation?
Ajay: My lifestyle has changed since I relocated to Romania – a natural result of shifting from a life I knew to pivoting into a rather unfamiliar territory. When I was working for corporations, I was constantly striving for the success of the organisation, which sometimes came at a personal cost. Now, my priorities have changed and I live by my own rules. It’s a learning process, however I am enjoying the freedom my new life offers.
the Jupital: What are your plans for the future?
Ajay: We are currently growing berries on 2 hectares of land and our aim for next year is to plant another 3 hectares and obtain organic certification. I plan to put together a cold press unit, a berry-freezing unit, and add value to the business by making jams, compote, etc. We aim to encourage people to come and experience life at the blueberry farm. When Oliver, our son, grows up we would love it if he spends some time here with his friends and farm animals.
How may buying and cultivating land contribute to one’s sustainable future?