Vikram Oberoi believes that luxury hotels should be as unique as the guests who stay in them. “It needs to have a sense of place,” he says. “It should be small and individualistic. It shouldn’t be cookie-cutter for luxury customers.”
He should know. It could be said that Oberoi was born to the luxury hospitality industry. He is the son of P.R.S. Oberoi, chairman of The Oberoi Group, and the grandson of Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi, who founded the company in 1934. It is no surprise, therefore, that this scion of hospitality has earned a Leader in Luxury award for the hotel sector.
Vikram Oberoi is the joint managing director of EIH Limited, the flagship company of The Oberoi Group, which operates 27 luxury hotels in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Egypt, Australia and Hungary. He is actively involved in the operation of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts throughout the world, but especially in India, where his hotels have raised the standard of luxury to new heights.
Educated in England and a graduate of Pepperdine University in California, Oberoi gained work experience in Melbourne, Australia before returning to India to join The Oberoi Group’s management team, becoming general manager of The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, in 1997.
“The philosophy at Oberoi is to treat people well,” he continues. “Service is not about speed. It’s about how each individual treats each guest. That’s what sets service apart. Luxury is about pampering, about making you feel special.”
Oberoi has worked closely with McKinsey & Company in reengineering the systems and processes of the group. Over the past years, he has held various management positions within the group, rising through the ranks and overseeing the operation of several luxury hotels.
In addition, Oberoi has had to shoulder an added responsibility that no hotelier ever wants to. Last year, in the attacks at Mumbai’s Oberoi Trident Hotel, terrorists killed 10 employees and 22 guests. He was forced to rebuild and return a scarred battleground to the luxury destination it had been.
“We had to do a number of things to increase security,” he recalls. “It’s much more important now. It was a paradigm shift. We never thought that would happen in a hotel, and it did.”
The staff has undergone special training to recognize anything out of the ordinary, and technology has been implemented to detect both metal and plastic explosives.
“Some things are visible, and some not,” Oberoi says of the new features. “We have to be sensitive to the guests—they don’t want to walk into Fort Knox. It’s been a tough thing to do. In addition to providing a nice hotel and environment, we have the added responsibility of taking steps to safeguard the guests.”
A year after the attacks, the hotel has returned to its former glory, a testament to the determination and hard work of Vikram Oberoi, the Group and his team.