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From Rs. 25 to Billions: The Story of MS Oberoi

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From Rs. 25 to Billions: The Story of MS Oberoi
By Jay Kapoor • Issue #27 • View online
This is not just a rag to riches story, but a rag to the legacy saga

A Sikh man, barefoot with 25 rupees in his pocket and a family to feed, in the British Colonial Era. This is not just a rag to riches story, but a rag to the legacy saga. 
This is the story of Mohan Singh Oberoi, The Father of the Indian Hospitality Industry. A Padmabhushan awardee, A Man of The World awardee by the International Hotel Association (IHA), New York, and countless other national and international awards’ achievers.
Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi was neither a prodigy nor came from a well-to-do family; on the contrary, the setting of his story is rather a tragic tale.
Born in Bhanau village from Pakistan’s Jhelum district, his father passed away when he was six months old, leaving baby Oberoi to be raised by a single mother and that too in poverty. Following their family dread, Oberoi decided to drop out of law college to feed his family and began working as a manager at his uncle’s shoe factory in Lahore. 
Unfortunately, bad omens weren’t just leaving poor Oberoi. The shoe factory shut down within the coming year owing to the riots in Amritsar. In the year things took a turn for Oberoi. He married 15-year-old Ishran Devi at the age of 20. He wasn’t able to go back to the old job as his family disowned him; he cut his beard which is considered offensive in the Sikh community. After an episode of turmoil, an epidemic forced Oberoi to flee from his village with his wife and a newborn daughter.  
And this is where the tide changed for him. He landed in Shimla with his family barefoot. All he had was a will of a mountain and a 25 rupee note his mother gave him. He got a job at the front desk of Cecil hotel in Shimla; he gave his 100% to the job and outperformed himself every time. 
This made him a good acquaintance with the hotel’s then manager, Clarke. Clarke eventually took the role of Oberoi’s mentor helping him grow and achieve greater heights. 
In 1934, Oberoi acquired his first property. It was The Clarkes Hotel, which he got from his mentor by mortgaging his wife’s jewellery and all his assets. His hard work ensured that he paid back all the mortgage money over the next five years. After that, he signed a lease to take over operations of the five hundred room Grand Hotel in Calcutta that was on sale following a cholera epidemic.
Oberoi then intelligently negotiated with Mercantile Bank (liquidators of the estate of Stephen Arathoon) to reduce the lease of the Shimla hotel. He then took over the Associated Hotels of India chain and rented Delhi’s, Hotel Imperial.
Slowly, the Oberoi name started leaving its footprints everywhere possible. 
MS Oberoi ended up founding India’s second-largest hotel company, and the group employs more than 12,000 people worldwide and owns and operates 31 luxury hotels and luxury cruisers in five countries, primarily under its Oberoi Hotels and Resorts and Trident brands.
Even after his death at age 103, Oberoi still remains a force to be reckoned with. 
A legend, to know, to be, to get inspired from!
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