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Prithviraj Singh Oberoi, or Biki Oberoi as he is known, is an inspirational figure not just in the Indian hospitality industry but even in the entrepreneurial space. He has taken The Oberoi Group of Hotels to great heights, redefining luxury as ‘understated and discreet’ for an entire generation of hoteliers, without losing sight of the roots from which the group draws its sustenance.
Unlike other hotel groups, the Oberoi properties are steeped in the culture of India — from their dedication to the dearly-held philosophy of Atithi Devo Bhava to the design of the resorts, which can be best defined as ‘India Modern’. Old hands will tell you that Mr Oberoi is the chief architect, designer and planner for every one of his hotels.
While building The Oberoi Gurgaon, the octogenarian hotelier visited the hotel more than 50 times. His exacting standards and processes have been documented in a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document, more than 2000 pages in length.
Mr Oberoi inherited this legacy of hospitality from his father, MS Oberoi. Mr Oberoi extended the brand by establishing luxury hotels in some key tourism markets, and also expanding The Oberoi Group beyond India’s shores. At 87, he is still the force that drives the business though he has passed on the running of the group to son Vikram and nephew Arjun.
Mr Oberoi has also contributed to the hospitality industry by setting up the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development, from which has emerged several leaders of the industry as well as other achievers.
A winner of several awards including the Padma Vibhushan and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the CNBC TV 18 India Business Leader Awards 2007, Mr Oberoi offers some advice to budding hoteliers: the people you work with you are the biggest assets, so invest in them. Don’t cut costs; instead, try to cut waste. And possess a passion for what you do if you want to succeed. Recently, under Mr Oberoi’s guidance, the Oberoi Group launched a new brand identity focusing on its guest experience. It has now been renamed to ‘Oberoi Sun’, which according to the Oberoi Group means the warmth, energy and sense of well-being of its guest experience.
Mr Oberoi insists that the focus right from the first hotel in the 1930s has remained on the guest experience. Mr Oberoi has mentored several hoteliers, many of whom have gone on to establish their own groups.