By Aditti Ahluwalia
Dear Mr. Oberoi,
It was March of 1990 when I had the good fortune of travelling to Bombay for a once in a lifetime kind of an invitation. The said event was an Award Distribution Ceremony, organised by The Onlooker, a popular magazine. The Chief Guest and honourable judge of the All India Human Story Writing Contest was Mr. Khushwant Singh. I have a vivid memory of striding across the gleaming lobby of a very elegant hotel with my father in tow (and a smile on my face, pride on his) as my eager eyes tried to capture all that they could. We were gracefully guided to the 35th floor of what was then The Oberoi Towers, Bombay, the venue for the day. One step out of the lift and we were rooted to the spot, confronted as we were with a vast expanse of a grand glass window framing the Arabian Sea in front, the magical glow of setting Sun making its water look like it had been strewn with the rarest of rare golden crystals. Open mouthed wonder does not even begin to describe the way I felt that day. Not only was I the beaming co recipient of the First Prize that evening, in that moment I had an unexpected brush with the feelings of a sweet torment. For here I was, a young girl, transported into a space that was no where close to anything I had ever seen in my life before and it wasn't something I could have possibly carried back home with me, no matter how smitten I was. Torn as I was, I left a part of me there but brought back with me priceless memories which remain safely cocooned in the most precious corner of my heart till date.
And between then and now, I've experienced great hospitality and near perfect stays at other legendary hotels worldwide, few boasting of a palatial magnificence while others, superlative in their own charming way. But it's here Sir, on that day and in that moment, that I came alive.
Now there's something to be said about one's first love, so I had to come back, looking for an emotional transportation of sorts. This trip was with my now grown up daughter. So we arrive on a very hot April afternoon, the Mumbai air pregnant with heat, humidity and dust in equal measures.
Bombay has adjusted well to being renamed Mumbai, I notice. And my 35 storied "old flame" is now The Trident, internally connected to what's now, The Oberoi by a slick arcade. Both properties sit on the serene side of South Mumbai with great panache, exuding top notch class. True intimacy begins to reflect right from the non scripted welcome, swiftly extending to other winning responses from your empowered employees, whichever way my head turns. Rest assured we feel seen, heard and cared for. My room has the exact same sea view that pulled at my heart strings all these years. God listens and rewards too, if you want something hard enough.
Between the ocean and hotel is the eternal busybody, the Marine Drive. I have spent long hours lazing on the bed, cup of tea in my hand, doing nothing but people watch. And from my vantage point on the desk or the bed, I have witnessed the mesmerising Sun disappear into the ocean as the sea breeze playfully carves waves on its surface. Akin to all other experiences at your hotel, the food at Ziya and people behind it deserve a mention. Cozy seating overlooking the water expanse can be a perfect setting for just about everything. Ziya IS all shades of exquisite and its subtle luxury will be hard to not go back to. It's endearing to see how friendly and warm everyone is and how visibly proud they are, of their place of work.
The Oberoi Towers of 1990 may have stolen my young heart then but it is my recent trip to the place that sealed the deal.
From ever since it has opened its doors to the World, The Oberoi properties, all 32+ of them, may have hosted the who's who and the likes of me as well. In my humble opinion and experience, it's the winning combination of adherence to traditional values along with the scrupulous attention to detail that has made The Oberoi group, a shining jewel on the hospitality horizon. It cannot be this easy to get it right every single time, yet your people do. But it is so easy to conclude that the group's ideology is singularly guest centric. That's precisely what enables your flag bearers Sir, to autograph each guest interaction with an effortless excellence. To me, any hotel experience should be more than an easy check in, a spectacular decor or gourmet indulgences or other extravagant touches. I yearn for an echt joy in the tone, a spring in their step and a genuine vibe rich with the sentiment -- we want to impress you, yes, but we also want to make you happy first".
People at The Oberoi have a thing about good service and a unique mastery over making it look so easy. As if the guest is the Sun around which everyone must orbit. This is a rare and precious art. At no point does it feel that our stay is merely a financial transaction between us and the hotel. The assiduous care and personal touch is extended till we exit the door but stays within the heart until forever. To encounter cultured ministrations in a world so wrapped up in oneself can have a significantly profound effect on one's psyche. Irrespective of what hour of the day it is Sir, your hotel and its people are well and truly awake, a testament to their ongoing commitment to faultless standards of service, and for the onlookers, a lesson in the art of retaining guests for life.
the world needs more people like you as much as the world needs many more places like yours.
P.S: On 3rd May, 2022, Mr. PRS Oberoi decided to relinquish his position as Chairman and Director of the group. He may have exited a role but every bit of the group's fine qualities remain, deeply ingrained as it appears to be, in the very DNA of anyone who's ever been with The Oberoi. The heart and soul of the group, Mr. PRS Oberoi is a living testimony to the maxim that operational excellence flows from top to down. That he's done ample justice to his father Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi's legacy, is unquestionable. Guest is everything, isn't merely a phrase they chose to use on the web page. Under his aegis, The Oberoi hotels, anywhere and everywhere, epitomises "Atithi Devo Bhava".
Here's a visionary we may all learn a thing or two from. I have heard several stories of how he's meticulously brought The Oberoi into a league of its own, to an extent that even the biggest stalwarts in the hospitality sector find it hard to match and emulate the service standards set by him.
Besides earning a glorious reputation for his striking attention to detail, Mr. Oberoi's genius as a strategist is what may have made him create these zen like spots in a world full of grays. If like me, you're a sucker for all things love, The Oberoi will suck you up in a heartbeat. I understand I am not well equipped to sketch sweeping portraits of a career as well built and well lived as yours Sir, but I do see that you've finished the show with tremendous eclat.
(The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at email@example.com)