Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi (1929–2023) was the doyen of Indian hospitality and Chairman Emeritus of the Oberoi Group, which runs a chain of luxury hotels, The Trident Hotels and Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. Oberoi was also the executive chairman of EIH Limited, The Oberoi Group flagship. He is well-known as the man who changed the face of the hotel industry in India. On 14 November 2023, at the age of 94, he passed away due to age-related issues.
Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi, also known as PRS Oberoi The Times of India, was born on Sunday, 3 February 1929 (age 94 years; at the time of death) in New Delhi. His zodiac sign is Aquarius. Prior to his birth, his parents moved from their native village Bhaun (now in Punjab, Pakistan) in 1922 to save their daughter from the outbreak of plague and got settled at Muree (a hill station in Pakistan), where his father earned his livelihood by doing some odd jobs. After staying in Muree for a while, his family first moved to Shimla and then to Delhi, where his father worked in the hospitality sector. Prithvi Raj grew up spending time with his family in Shimla, Lahore, Bhaun, and Delhi. In an interview, while sharing his childhood memories, Oberoi said,
We didn’t have a place we could call home as we lived in hotels throughout our early life. I didn’t know any other life. In Shimla it used to be either Cecil or Clarkes, in Calcutta it was the Grand, in Delhi, the Imperial and in Lahore, the Falleti.”
He did his schooling at St. Paul’s School in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India. After completing his schooling, Prithvi Raj Oberoi moved to London to pursue a chartered accountancy and a law course (as per the wishes of his father). Although he did an apprenticeship with a chartered accountancy firm in London, UK, for about eighteen months and also started pursuing a course in Law, he found it very boring and quit them in between. Oberoi pursued his graduation in Hotel Management from a college in Lausanne, Switzerland. He then travelled all over Europe, working in different hotels at different positions.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: Brown
Parents & Siblings
Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi’s father, Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, was an Indian hotelier and the founding chairman of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, India’s second-largest hotel company, with 31 hotels in India, Egypt, Indonesia, UAE, Mauritius, and Saudi Arabia. His father died at the age of 103 on 3 May 2002. His mother’s name is Ishran Devi. He had an elder brother named Raj Tilak Singh Oberoi aka Tikki Oberoi, who died in 1984. He also had two sisters, Swaraj, and Prem. His elder sister, Swaraj, got married to Gautam Khanna in 1950. His younger sister, Prem, got married to Captain KK Mehra in 1957.
Wife & Children
Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi got married to Goodie, the daughter of a Punjabi landowner of Lyalpur, in 1959. Together, they had a son, Vikram S. Oberoi, the joint managing director of The Oberoi Group, and two daughters, Natasha, and Anastasia Mirjana Jojic Oberoi.
Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi’s grandfather, Attar Singh, was a contractor who passed away when Prithvi’s father was just 18 months old. His grandmother’s name is Bhagwanti. His nephew Arjun Singh Oberoi (son of his brother Raj Tilak Singh Oberoi) is the Executive Chairman of EIH Limited.
Religion & Caste
He resided at the Oberoi Farm house-cum-office on the outskirts of Delhi until his demise in 2023.
After gaining experience in the Hotel Management Industry at different world-class hotels in Europe, Prithvi Raj returned to India in 1955 with the aim of joining his family business, The Oberoi Group. He travelled to Calcutta (now, Kolkata) to take charge of the Grand Hotel, his first assignment. Soon, he was given the responsibility of four hotels in Pakistan that had come as part of the AHI acquisition. However, after the 1965 war, the Pakistani government took over those hotels. He then teamed up with his father, Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, and brother, Raj Tilak Singh Oberoi to expand the group across India and overseas. In the 70’s and 80’s he travelled to the Indian cities where he didn’t own a hotel and brought along world-class cooks. Later, in 1988, he opened a new hotel in Chennai. Although it was a five-star hotel, it was not a luxury property. Prithvi Raj took the opportunity to launch a new brand- Trident.
In the mid-1990s, Oberoi bought 28 acres of land in the outskirts of Jaipur, where he built The Oberoi Rajvilas in 1998. Within a year of its operations, the hotel was ranked among the best in the world. Prithvi Raj followed up Rajvilas with similar iconic properties in Agra, Udaipur, and Ranthambore named Amarvilas, Udaivilas, and Vanyavilas respectively. With the opening of several luxury hotels in many big cities in India, Prithvi Raj managed to place Oberoi hotels on the international luxury travellers map. After the demise of his father, Mohan Singh Oberoi, in 2002, Prithvi Raj was appointed as the Chairman of EIH Limited. He held the position until 2013.
On 29 March 2004, Oberoi was appointed as the Director of Jet Airways (India) Limited. Besides providing leadership for the management of luxury hotels in various countries, Prithvi Raj played a key role in the development of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts. He stepped down as the Chairman and Director of EIH Limited on 3 May 2022, a position which was later assumed by his nephew, Arjun Singh Oberoi. Prior to his death, he was serving as the Executive Chairman of The Oberoi Group.
Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi held directorships in various companies including Oberoi Properties Pvt Ltd (Construction Company), Oberoi Hotels Private Limited (Hotels and Restaurants), Bombay Plaza Private Limited (Financial Intermediation Company), Oberoi Plaza Private Limited (Activities Auxiliary to Financial Intermediation), Oberoi Leasing And Finance Co Pvt Ltd (Activities Auxiliary to Financial Intermediation), Oberoi Investments Pvt Ltd (Real Estate Activities), Oberoi Buildings & Investments Pvt Ltd (Real Estate Activities), and Oberoi Holdings Pvt Ltd (Real Estate Activities).
Awards & Honours
- In March 2003, Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi was conferred with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the 6th International Hotels Investment Forum in Berlin in recognition of his exceptional leadership and vision.
- In October 2005, Oberoi was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP), a preeminent gathering of hotel investors, investment bankers and leading industry professionals in the region, at its annual Conference in Hong Kong. He was honoured with the award in recognition of his contribution to the hospitality industry and his pioneering leadership in making The Oberoi Group a global brand by taking the concept of luxury to a new paradigm.
- In 2007, PRS Oberoi received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the CNBC TV 18 India Business Leader Awards for building a world-class hotel chain that caters to both luxury and business travellers and for shaping the hospitality industry of the country.
- In 2008, Business India Magazine honoured him with the Businessman of the Year Award for building a world-class premium hospitality brand.
- In November 2008, Prithvi Raj received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for redefining design standards in luxury hotels.
- In 2008, Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi was honoured with the Padma Vibushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour by the Government of India in recognition of his exceptional service to the country.
- In 2010, Oberoi was recognised as the “Corporate Hotelier of the World” by Hotels Magazine, USA. In the November edition of the cover story of the magazine, Oberoi was described as “the founder father of modern luxury hospitality in India.” The story also credited him for growing the company “into one of the world’s most prestigious luxury hotel groups.”
- In December 2012, Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi was bestowed with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) in Cannes as a global recognition of his exceptional leadership, vision, and contribution to developing The Oberoi Group as one of the world’s leading luxury hotel chains.
- In November 2012, the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence conferred him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to the Indian Hospitality Industry.
- In February 2013, The All India Management Association (AIMA) bestowed him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Management.
- In 2014, the Forbes India Leadership Awards honoured Oberoi with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
- In 2015, Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi was voted among CNBC TV18’s Top 15 Indian Business Icons.
- In June 2022, Oberoi was recognised as one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Global Hospitality by the International Hospitality Institute on the Global 100 in Hospitality.
Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi passed away due to age-related ailments in the early morning of 14 November 2023. English Jagran His son, Vikram Oberoi, shared the news with The Oberoi Group’s employees through an email, which read,
It is with profound grief and sorrow that we wish to inform you of the peaceful passing of our beloved leader, Mr. P.R.S. Oberoi, Chairman Emeritus earlier today. His passing is a significant loss for The Oberoi Group and the hospitality industry in India and overseas.”
Mourning his death, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took to X and wrote,
Saddened by the demise of Padma Vibhushan PRS Oberoi, chairman of the Oberoi group, and the hospitality tycoon of India. He was trained in Darjeeling and his achievements have been inextricably linked to Bengal. We shall all feel the irreparable loss.”
His last rights were performed at the Bhagwanti Oberoi Charitable Trust, Oberoi Farm, Kapashera, at 4 pm on the same day.
- Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi loved rearing horses in his leisure time.
- He was fondly called Biki by his loved ones. Forbes India He was also referred to as Mr. Hospitality. Forbes India
- Much opposite to his father, who grew his business through acquisition, Prithvi Raj acquired only one property in his lifetime Trident, Chennai.
- Apparently, in 2008 when the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai suffered the 26/11 terror attacks, Prithvi Raj Singh was attending an awards function at the Taj Lands End hotel in Bandra, Mumbai. After he was informed about the attack by an associate, he made sure to camp himself in the city and oversee the rescue operations.
- In 2012, he faced criticism from a group of people after The Oberoi Group’s competitor ITC bought a stake in EIH. At the same time, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani invested in EIH.
- Apparently, Prithvi Raj used to wake up at 8:30 and go to sleep at 12:30.
- He lived by the mantra-
We want to be the best, not the biggest.”
- In a media conversation, Oberoi defined ‘Luxury’ as,
Luxury is all about having everything exactly the way they should be — whether it’s the degree of lighting, the placing of switches, the height of the bathtub or the colour of the curtain.”
- In an interview, Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi revealed that he never had to work until he was 32 years old. Hindustan Times
- Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi was the only Indian member (except for the odd maharaja) of the global jet set for many years. Hindustan Times