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Mohan Singh Oberoi

Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi (August 15, 1898óMay 3, 2002) was a renowned Indian hotelier widely regarded as the father of 20th century India's hotel business. A centenarian, he was revered in his later years as a far-ranging visionary who provided a modern structural model for South Asia's tourism and hospitality services industry.

M. S. Oberoi was born in Bhaun, a minor village in {before part of Jhelum district} now in Chakwal district which, after the partition of India, has been in the Pakistan region of divided Punjab. When he was six months old, his father, a contractor in Peshawar, died, leaving his mother with few resources. After attending schools in his village and nearby Rawalpindi, he passed the Intermediate College Examination in Lahore, but was unable to continue attending classes because of lack of finances. Instead, he learned typing and shorthand and, in 1922, started his hotel career with a low-paid billing clerk position at Shimla's Hotel Cecil.He was working there as a bell boy. Within two years, he assisted the Cecil's manager, Mr. Clarke, in purchasing The Carlton Hotel (renamed Clarkes) in Shimla, and ten years later, in 1934, upon Clarke's retirement, he gathered all the family resources to purchase the hotel.

The start of a hotel empire

After another four years, in the aftermath of a cholera-epidemic-caused business downturn in Kolkata, M. S. Oberoi was able to negotiate favorable terms in taking over the management of the city's Calcutta Grand Hotel. The hotel, formerly a palace of luxury, had been empty for years, since the death of over a hundred foreigners who were guests during the outbreak. The hotel was refurbished and the following year, 1939, at the start of World War II, 1500 beds were made available to the British Army, as thousands of troops filled Kolkata. By 1941, M. S. Oberoi was becoming well known in the hotel business and, in recognition of his services to the industry in time of war, Indian authorities bestowed on him the title of Rai Bahadur. In another two years, he became India's first modern hotel magnate by taking over the controlling interest in the Associated Hotels of India (AIH), which owned top hotels in the entire region, including Delhi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, Murree and Shimla's Hotel Cecil, his first place of employment twenty-one years earlier.

Revered centenarian:Throughout his later life M. S. Oberoi received numerous honors and awards, both from the Indian government and private organizations and came to be seen as an emblematic figure in transformation of modern India. Upon his death, extensive tributes poured in from the country's business community.

Almost all publications indicated M. S. Oberoi's year of birth as 1898 and his age at death as 103. In his own autobiographical sketch however, he gave 1900 as his birth year, a fact attesting to his having lived to 101. However, in his New York Times obituary, the date is given as 1898 and the following was written: "He was 103, although for years he said he was born in 1900 because he did not want to be seen as dating from the 19th century."
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