I first met Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi on the verdant lawns of his office-cum- home at the Oberoi Farms on the outskirts of Delhi decades ago. He had heard of my work in the realm of brands and was very keen to do a catch-up. A brief catch-up, I was told. A casual catch-up.
I was curious about the agenda of the casual catch-up, but when the invitation came directly from the office of PRS (Biki) Oberoi, curiosity was best laid aside and not clarified. The rookie brand manager that I was respected the man and his reputation enough not to ask questions from a titan of industry as tall as PRSO was.
The tickets were sent (business class, of course), and I was all set to go. It was a day meeting and a room had been booked for me at the Oberoi Maidens for the evening. There was a liveried chauffeur waiting for me at Delhi airport, and a gleaming Mercedes-Benz was my set of wheels.
I was driven straight to the Oberoi Farms, which had me totally in awe. It looked no different than any of the Oberoi hotels I had stayed at. Neat was the word. Impeccable was another.
I was made to sit on the lawns and tea was served by a liveried butler out of a gleaming silverware tea set. The treatment was totally white-glove. As I sipped my tea, in strode PRS Oberoi (diminutive as ever), with a reputation that was tall as the tallest of them all.
The 45 minutes I spent with him was my first introduction to a gracious man. A hotelier who believed in platinum-standard hospitality. A man who did not compromise on quality at all. A man who had two constituencies in his heart at the fore – guests at his hotels and his employees. In that order.
While the subject of our meeting was discussed in detail (and not to be revealed here), I do remember talking to him animatedly with pride about the newly launched Club Floor at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. He listened intently and at the end of it all, dismissed me altogether in his disarming manner. “Harish, every floor at the Oberoi is a Club Floor” were his exact words! This had me floored.
This said it all. I left the meeting with the impression that I had met the God of luxury hospitality. In PRSO, there was grandeur, class, perfection, an eye for detail and everything that makes a platinum-standard luxury hotelier tick. And PRSO ticked and ticked off many, for sure! Ask any of his general managers, and they will tell you!
The Oberoi Group has lost its Chairman Emeritus, and the world of hospitality has lost its finest practicing star.
RIP PRSO! Om Shanti! We will all miss you!
Views expressed are personal
Harish Bijoor is a global brand expert and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.