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Oberoi hotel group founder dies at 103

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Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, founder of the India-based Oberoi hotel group, has died aged 103.

Oberoi, who was born on 15 August 1898 in Punjab (now in Pakistan), started his career in 1922 in Shimla, as a desk clerk at the Cecil hotel. His salary was 50 rupees (70p) a month.

In 1934 he bought his first hotel, the Clarkes, also in Shimla, by mortgaging his wife’s jewellery and all his assets.

Four years later, in 1938, he signed a lease to take over the 500-bedroom Grand hotel in Calcutta, which was for sale following a cholera epidemic.

In 1943 he acquired the controlling interest in Associated Hotels of India, which owned the Cecil and Corstophans in Shimla, the Maidens and the Imperial in Delhi and a hotel each in Lahore, Murree, Rawalpindi and Peshawar.

Under his chairmanship, the Oberoi Group became one of the country’s first and best-known international hotel companies, later diversifying into other areas of the hospitality industry. It was the first company to start flight catering in India, in 1959.

Other firsts included his decision to employ women in his hotels and his establishment of the Oberoi School of Hotel Management in India, now known as the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development.

Today the Oberoi Group has 37 hotels in seven countries.

by Louise Bozec

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