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PRS Oberoi passes away but his legacy continues

Looking back at the legacy of the chairman emeritus of the Oberoi Group.
photo of PRS Oberoi of Oberoi group of hotels in India

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.

Another X user, talks about yet another anecdote that illustrates the class of service PRS Oberoi’s employees were trained to offer.

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.

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.