Mohan Singh Oberoi : From A Hotel Clerk to the Owner of “Chains of Hotel”

Mohan Singh Oberoi was born on August 15, 1898 in Jhelum, that’s a part of Pakistan now. In 1922, Oberoi was in Shimla, he wanted to get a job with the glittering Cecil Hotel. But the porter at the gate threw him out. Mohan Singh still kept waiting at the gate and when he saw the manager- Mr Grove, he walked to him and said,” I am looking for a job sir, Do you have any vacancy?” This is how he started his career as a clerk at Hotel Cecil for Rs 50 per month. Having been satisfied with his performance, his manger promoted him to the post of a guest clerk for Rs 60 per month. Late Mr Grove was replaced by Mr. Earnest Clarke. In 1930, Mr Clarke went on a vacation and handed over the charge of his another Hotel Carlton at Shimla to Mohan Singh. When they came back after 6 months, they were impressed by the hotel’s performance as the occupancy doubled to 80%. Earnest Clarke rewarded Oberoi with a one-third share in the business of Carlton Hotel at the price of Rs 10,000.  Due to ill health Clarke had to return home and Oberoi had to take over the hotel. He never looked back after this.  Later, he took over Grand hotel of Delhi and Calcutta.  By the time, wheel of Oberoi fortune was turning full circle. In 1943, he arrived at the annual meeting of Associated Hotels of India ltd. With enough shares to wrest controlled from controller firm. The Cecil Hotel was one of the eight hotel owned by Associated Hotels of India.


This is how Oberoi ended up owning his original employer. This was the same hotel from where he was thrown out and now he was the owner of the same. With this acquisition, he gained control over a chain of eight small Hotels. The Oberoi group now numbered ten Hotels.

By 1955, he has developed an idea to build a 5 start hotel in Delhi that would belong to European 5 star category. But that would cost several million dollars so he looked around for funds. This project consumed a total investment of over Rs 100 million, raised through various sources. Eventually in 1965, the Oberoi Continental Hotel opened in New Delhi. Oberio Inter-Continental Hotel is a prestigious establishment in India even today.


Mohan Singh Oberoi has been India’s first and foremost hotelier, starting as a clerk in early 1920 in a British owned hotel and moving to its management and ownership. He has seen his mother struggling after his father’s untimely death and he then became the owner of over 30 luxury Hotels in India and overseas including Australia, Indonesia, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.  He died on May 3,2003 at the age of 103 years.

Source: 50 magnificent Indians of the 20th century by S.Lal


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