The extraordinary journey of a self-made man: From a meager Rs 50 salary to a Rs 30,000 crore business empire
Embarking on the path of entrepreneurship is no easy feat, and it demands relentless dedication and hard work. Today, we delve into the remarkable story of Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, who began his career as a billing clerk at The Cecil Hotel in Shimla, earning a mere Rs 50 per month. Against all odds, he went on to establish Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, India's second-largest hotel company, boasting an impressive portfolio of 31 hotels across India, Egypt, Indonesia, UAE, Mauritius, and Saudi Arabia.
Mohan Singh Oberoi was born into a Khatri family in the village of Bhaun, located in what is now Chakwal District of Pakistan's Punjab. Unfortunately, his father passed away when Mohan Singh Oberoi was only six months old. He completed his education in Rawalpindi and Lahore, Pakistan, reaching the Intermediate College Examination level. However, due to financial constraints, he had to discontinue his studies and found employment as a manager in his uncle's shoe business in Lahore.
Sadly, the factory faced closure after a year due to the turmoil of rioting in Amritsar.
In 1920, Mohan Singh Oberoi tied the knot with Ishran Devi, the daughter of Shri Ushnak Rai from his hometown. Seeking employment to support his family, he relocated to Sargodha in present-day Pakistan after marriage. However, despite his efforts, Mohan Singh Oberoi struggled to find work and eventually returned to his mother's home in the Jhelum district. Encouraged by his mother, he received Rs 25 as he set out to rejoin his in-laws.
Arriving in Shimla with just Rs 25 in his pocket in 1922, Mohan Singh Oberoi secured a job at The Cecil Hotel. Initially hired as a front desk clerk, his hard work and dedication soon earned him the admiration of his superiors, leading to his appointment as the hotel's manager.
In 1934, Mohan Singh Oberoi took a significant leap in his career. By pledging all his assets, including his wife's jewelry, he purchased his first property, The Clarkes Hotel, from his mentor. This marked a crucial milestone in his journey towards building an illustrious empire in the hospitality industry.
Within the following five years, through unwavering determination, Mohan Singh Oberoi diligently repaid the entire mortgage amount. He then embarked on a lease agreement to operate the 500-room Grand Hotel in Calcutta, which had been put up for sale due to a cholera epidemic.
Through his visionary leadership, Mohan Singh Oberoi transformed the Grand Hotel into a resounding commercial success. This marked the inception of what would evolve into India's second-largest hotel company, encompassing the renowned Oberoi Hotels and Resorts and Trident brands.
Presently, the company employs over 12,000 individuals worldwide, boasting a portfolio of 31 luxurious hotels and upscale cruise ships operating across five countries.
In recognition of his significant contributions to the Crown, Mohan Singh Oberoi was bestowed the title of "Rai Bahadur" by the British government in 1943. Additionally, in 2001, he was honored with the prestigious Padma Bhushan award.
Mohan Singh Oberoi's extraordinary journey came to an end on May 3, 2002, at the remarkable age of 103, leaving behind an enduring legacy of entrepreneurial brilliance and hospitality excellence.