Often called the doyen of Indian hospitality, Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi (aka PRS Oberoi) passed away on Tuesday, November 14, 2023.
Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi founded the Oberoi Group, but his son PRS ‘Biki’ Oberoi put the hotel’s name on the international luxury travel map. You could say that he changed the outlook of the hotel industry in India.
But PRS Oberoi did so much more. His understanding of luxury, the belief that design needs to be intuitive, obsession with perfection, and attention to people were quite unmatched. In an obituary published in Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi writes, “[sic]…it is worth remembering that he did so much more: the luxurious Indian city hotel is his creation. You can always tell his style from the large rooms, the elegant but comfortable furniture, some natural element such as gardens or a sea view, and the perfect lighting.”
Looking back at Oberoi’s legacy
It’s this focused approach to hospitality and service that helped change the world’s perception of India as a luxury travel destination.
CMO of Peak XV Partners, Gayatri Vasudeva Yadav narrates her experience.
I have a story on the hospitality of Oberoi. Few years ago I had hosted a party at Oberoi Gurgaon. When I was leaving I asked for some of the food to be packed for the cab driver (for him to eat the next morning as he would have already had dinner). It was taking inordinately… https://t.co/16NsPt8ZI3
— Gayatri Vasudeva Yadav (@GayatriPVYadav) November 14, 2023
Another X user, talks about yet another anecdote that illustrates the class of service PRS Oberoi’s employees were trained to offer.
We stayed at the Oberoi Wildflower Hall for our honeymoon. We asked them to book tickets in the Simla-Kalka toy train. Railways said the train will not run unless there were 14 passengers. The hotel thought for a bit and bought all 14 tickets just for us!https://t.co/lI8pnoXOyl pic.twitter.com/kucaA1n1Vj
— avataram (@avataram) November 15, 2023
Striving for change
The strive to offer this class of service came at a price for PRS Oberoi. When he first opened The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur and priced the tariff at $500 a night, he was told that India was not a place where people would spend this kind of money. But he persisted, gradually transforming the notion of a holiday in India.
When the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai was at threat of a terrorist takeover at the time of the 26/11 attack in 2008, Oberoi overcame that as well. He ensured that the hotel returned to normalcy in a short period of time.
P.R.S Oberoi passed away this morning. His many achievements were never sufficiently recognised. He made ‘Oberoi’ a global byword for the Indian luxury hospitality experience and the first to put an Indian hotel on the very top of global rankings. He also rallied the group… pic.twitter.com/q7BDVtImI3
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) November 14, 2023
The doors never close
In August 2010, he sold three EIH promoters – Oberoi Hotels Private Ltd, Aravali Polymers Private Ltd and Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi – to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries. RIL now owns 19 per cent stakes in EIH.
While Oberoi’s father set up the hospitality group in 1936, it was PRS who took made it a luxury name. And, he did manage to make it a globally recognised brands only after much learning. In 2004, he was the Director of Jet Airways (India) Ltd. He was awarded with the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour, in recognition of his exceptional service to the country in 2008. And, in June 2022, he was recognised by the International Hospitality Institute as one of the ‘100 Most Powerful People in Global Hospitality’.
Oberoi stepped down as the executive chairman and director of the company on May 3, 2022. Later, the EIH Board approved to offer him the position of ‘chairman emeritus’. His son Vikramjit Singh Oberoi is now the CEO and managing director of EIH.