Mohan Singh Oberoi

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Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi (August 15, 1900—May 3, 2002) was a renowned Indian hotelier widely regarded as the father of 20th century India's hotel business. A centenarian, he was revered in his later years as a far-ranging visionary who provided a modern structural model for South Asia's tourism and hospitality services industry.Contents [hide]

Early years

M. S. Oberoi was born in Bhaun, a minor village in {before part of Jhelum district} now in Chakwal district which, after the partition of India, has been in the Pakistan region of divided Punjab. When he was six months old, his father, a contractor in Peshawar, died, leaving his mother with few resources. After attending schools in his village and nearby Rawalpindi, he passed the Intermediate College Examination in Lahore, but was unable to continue attending classes because of lack of finances. Instead, he learned typing and shorthand and, in 1922, started his hotel career with a low-paid billing clerk position at Shimla's Hotel Cecil. Within two years, he assisted the Cecil's manager, Mr. Clarke, in purchasing The Carlton Hotel (renamed Clarkes) in Shimla, and ten years later, in 1934, upon Clarke's retirement, he gathered all the family resources to purchase the hotel.

The start of a hotel empire

After another four years, in the aftermath of a cholera-epidemic-caused business downturn in Kolkata, M. S. Oberoi was able to negotiate favorable terms in taking over the management of the city's Calcutta Grand Hotel. The hotel, formerly a palace of luxury, had been empty for years, since the death of over a hundred foreigners who were guests during the outbreak. The hotel was refurbished and the following year, 1939, at the start of World War II, 1500 beds were made available to the British Army, as thousands of troops filled Kolkata. By 1941, M. S. Oberoi was becoming well known in the hotel business and, in recognition of his services to the industry in time of war, Indian authorities bestowed on him the title of Rai Bahadur. In another two years, he became India's first modern hotel magnate by taking over the controlling interest in the Associated Hotels of India (AIH), which owned top hotels in the entire region, including Delhi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, Murree and Shimla's Hotel Cecil, his first place of employment twenty-one years earlier.

Role as politician and business statesman

As India became independent, M. S. Oberoi built additional hotels, while expanding his base holdings. In April 1955, he was elected President of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India and in 1960 was endowed as the President of Honour of the Federation for life. He also participated in legislative politics by winning elections to the Rajya Sabha in 1962 and to the Lok Sabha in 1968. He made one more electoral run for the Rajya Sabha in 1972 and was again successful. One very notable hotel industry milestone came in 1965 when, in partnership with international hotel chains, he opened the Oberoi Intercontinental in Delhi, India's first modern five-star, world-class hotel.

Revered centenarian

Throughout his later life M. S. Oberoi received numerous honors and awards, both from the Indian government and private organizations and came to be seen as an emblematic figure in transformation of modern India. Upon his death, extensive tributes poured in from the country's business community.

Almost all publications indicated M. S. Oberoi's year of birth as 1898 and his age at death as 103. In his own autobiographical sketch[1] however, he gave 1900 as his birth year, a fact attesting to his having lived to 101.

Oberoi Group

The Oberoi Group, founded in 1934, now employs about 12,000 people worldwide and owns and manages about thirty hotels and five luxury cruisers. Other activities include airline catering, management of restaurants and airport bars, travel and tour services, car rental, project management and corporate air charters. The Group has a number of hotels worldwide, latest hotel additions being in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Egypt and Africa.