Entrepreneurship poses significant challenges, and anyone embarking on a business venture must exert immense effort to achieve success. Today, we will delve into the life of Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, who commenced his journey as a billing clerk at The Cecil Hotel in Shimla, earning a monthly salary of Rs 50, and eventually established Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, the second-largest hotel company in India, with a presence in 31 hotels across India, Egypt, Indonesia, UAE, Mauritius, and Saudi Arabia.
Mohan Singh Oberoi was born into a Khatri family in Bhaun, a small village in Jhelum District (now Chakwal District) in Punjab, Pakistan. At the tender age of six months, Mohan Singh Oberoi lost his father. He attended schools in Rawalpindi and completed the Intermediate College Examination in Lahore, Pakistan. Due to limited resources, he had to discontinue his studies and began working as a manager in his uncle’s shoe business in Lahore.
Unfortunately, the factory had to be shut down a year later due to unrest in Amritsar. In 1920, Mohan Singh Oberoi married Ishran Devi, the daughter of Shri Ushnak Rai from his village. After marriage, he moved to Sargodha in present-day Pakistan in search of employment to support his family. However, he faced difficulties in finding a job and returned to his mother in his hometown in the Jhelum district. Encouraged by his mother, Mohan Singh Oberoi received Rs 25 from her before leaving to join his in-laws.
With Rs 25 in his pocket, Mohan Singh Oberoi arrived in Shimla in 1922 and secured a position at The Cecil Hotel. He started as a front desk clerk, earning a monthly salary of Rs 50. Through his unwavering dedication, he impressed his superiors and was entrusted with the responsibility of managing the hotel.
In 1934, Mohan Singh Oberoi, after pledging all his assets and his wife’s jewelry, acquired his first property, The Clarkes Hotel, from his mentor. Over the next five years, fueled by his determination, he managed to repay the entire mortgage amount and obtained a lease to operate the 500-room Grand Hotel in Calcutta. The hotel had been put up for sale due to a cholera epidemic. Mohan Singh Oberoi transformed the hotel into a thriving business and went on to establish India’s second-largest hotel company, operating under the Oberoi Hotels and Resorts and Trident brands.
At present, the company employs over 12,000 individuals worldwide and possesses and manages 31 luxurious hotels and luxury cruise ships in five nations. In recognition of his contributions to the Crown, the British government bestowed upon Oberoi the title of “Rai Bahadur” in 1943. He was also honored with the Padma Bhushan in 2001. Mohan Singh Oberoi passed away on May 3, 2002, at the remarkable age of 103.