Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi
India
Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi
  • Executive Chairperson, EIH Limited (Hospitality, tourism)
Born Delhi, India, 1929. Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (1952).
“[I]t is not only the physical attributes of a hotel that are important, it is important to have good people, good service, and I think that’s been our success, good service.”

Summary

Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi is the Executive Chairman of EIH Limited, which is the flagship company of the Oberoi Group, one of India’s largest luxury hotel chains. The group was founded in 1934 by Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, Prithvi’s father.

To begin his interview, Oberoi explains that because his father was a hotelier, he grew up living inside of hotels and learning about the hospitality business. After he finished his schooling and with the encouragement of his father, Oberoi went abroad to work in a number of hotels throughout Europe. After a few years, Oberoi returned to India and gained additional experience at the Maidens Hotel in Delhi before moving to Kolkata and working at The Oberoi Grand. In the early 1960s, while working at The Oberoi Grand, Oberoi was given the additional task of looking after the group’s four hotels in Pakistan. Oberoi discusses how these four hotels were ultimately taken over by Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 as enemy property and were never returned (and were never compensated for).

In this interview, Oberoi explains that the group hit an important milestone with the opening of The Oberoi Intercontinental - New Delhi, in 1965. The Oberoi Intercontinental was India’s first modern hotel, which marked a pivotal moment for India’s tourism industry. In this interview, Oberoi describes that they were able to finance this hotel by acquiring credit from American companies and were able to import equipment to create the hotel using the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Oberoi explains that, after the hotel was constructed, his father implemented a goal of turning The Oberoi Intercontinental into one of the highest rated hotels in the world. With this goal in mind, in 1966, The Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development was launched to train hotel managers in three different disciplines: general management, kitchen, and housekeeping. Additionally, Oberoi explains why his father decided to challenge India’s conservative norms by employing female staff beginning with the opening of The Oberoi Intercontinental. As a result of these training and hiring practices, Oberoi describes the hotel’s employees and the quality of service they provide guests as the group’s best and biggest asset.

The interview continues as Oberoi explains the next series of luxury hotels the group built in India during the 1980s and their initial international expansion into Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, and Egypt. He goes on to describe the group’s introduction of computer technology. Oberoi points to this as the key technological innovation that made a significant change in the hotel industry. Oberoi continues by discussing continuing challenges in India: the need for the Indian government to recognize tourism as a major industry, bureaucratic barriers to improving infrastructure, the issue of corruption, and the need for businesses to advocate for environmental sustainability and to become engaged in social impact projects.

To conclude the interview, Oberoi reflects on how three generations of the Oberoi family have put distinctive stamps on the group: his father (the “businessman”), himself (the “hotelier”), and his son (the “operator”). Oberoi discusses the future of the group and the appointment of his son, Vikram, as Managing Director and CEO of EIH Limited in 2015. In the year of this interview, Oberoi’s father’s dream of creating the highest ranked hotel was realized: the Oberoi hotel brand was recognized as the best hotel brand in the world according to a readers’ poll in Travel and Leisure Magazine.

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Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi is the Executive Chairman of EIH Limited, which is the flagship company of the Oberoi Group, one of India’s largest luxury hotel chains. The group was founded in 1934 by Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, Prithvi’s father.

To begin his interview, Oberoi explains that because his father was a hotelier, he grew up living inside of hotels and learning about the hospitality business. After he finished his schooling and with the encouragement of his father, Oberoi went abroad to work in a number of hotels throughout Europe. After a few years, Oberoi returned to India and gained additional experience at the Maidens Hotel in Delhi before moving to Kolkata and working at The Oberoi Grand. In the early 1960s, while working at The Oberoi Grand, Oberoi was given the additional task of looking after the group’s four hotels in Pakistan. Oberoi discusses how these four hotels were ultimately taken over by Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 as enemy property and were never returned (and were never compensated for).

In this interview, Oberoi explains that the group hit an important milestone with the opening of The Oberoi Intercontinental - New Delhi, in 1965. The Oberoi Intercontinental was India’s first modern hotel, which marked a pivotal moment for India’s tourism industry. In this interview, Oberoi describes that they were able to finance this hotel by acquiring credit from American companies and were able to import equipment to create the hotel using the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Oberoi explains that, after the hotel was constructed, his father implemented a goal of turning The Oberoi Intercontinental into one of the highest rated hotels in the world. With this goal in mind, in 1966, The Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development was launched to train hotel managers in three different disciplines: general management, kitchen, and housekeeping. Additionally, Oberoi explains why his father decided to challenge India’s conservative norms by employing female staff beginning with the opening of The Oberoi Intercontinental. As a result of these training and hiring practices, Oberoi describes the hotel’s employees and the quality of service they provide guests as the group’s best and biggest asset.

The interview continues as Oberoi explains the next series of luxury hotels the group built in India during the 1980s and their initial international expansion into Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, and Egypt. He goes on to describe the group’s introduction of computer technology. Oberoi points to this as the key technological innovation that made a significant change in the hotel industry. Oberoi continues by discussing continuing challenges in India: the need for the Indian government to recognize tourism as a major industry, bureaucratic barriers to improving infrastructure, the issue of corruption, and the need for businesses to advocate for environmental sustainability and to become engaged in social impact projects.

To conclude the interview, Oberoi reflects on how three generations of the Oberoi family have put distinctive stamps on the group: his father (the “businessman”), himself (the “hotelier”), and his son (the “operator”). Oberoi discusses the future of the group and the appointment of his son, Vikram, as Managing Director and CEO of EIH Limited in 2015. In the year of this interview, Oberoi’s father’s dream of creating the highest ranked hotel was realized: the Oberoi hotel brand was recognized as the best hotel brand in the world according to a readers’ poll in Travel and Leisure Magazine.
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Video Clips by Topic

Building Brands

P.R.S. Oberoi, Chair of the Indian-based luxury hotel and tourism company EIH, discusses the importance of high quality service in his industry. 


Corruption

P.R.S Oberoi, Chair of the iconic Indian luxury travel company Oberoi Hotel and Resorts, holds business largely responsible for most of the corruption in India, but argues that there is now an increasing realization in business and in government that corruption does not pay in the long-run.
Keywords: India, Corruption


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

"Interview with P. R. S. Oberoi, interviewed by Ryan Buell and Ananth Raman, August 25, 2015, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, http://www.hbs.edu/creating-emerging-markets/."