Nancy Novogrod: ‘Biki and his hotels — a tireless dedication to getting it right, and a peerless sense of style’

As former editor-in-chief of of one of the planet’s most well-known travel magazines, she has been (and still is) in a position to connect with the top hospitality-industry professionals across the globe. Nancy Novogrod brings her expert world-view to bear on what sets PRS Oberoi apart from other hoteliers.

Nancy Novogrod, founder, Culturati Travel Design, has been the high priestess of hospitality and travel worldwide for several decades. While Editor-in-Chief of Travel + Leisure, she not only experienced the magic of the Oberoi properties but also made the acquaintance of their PRS Oberoi (fondly called ‘Biki’ by friends) in the late 1990s, a professional friendship that has endured down the decades. She shares her impressions of him and the secret sauce that gives the Oberoi Hotels that something extra.

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Nancy Novogrod: Biki would have been at the very top of my personal ‘best-dressed list’ during my 21 years as Editor-in-Chief of Travel + Leisure had I kept one.

When I think of Biki, the words elegance and grace immediately come to mind, along with “what a gorgeous sport jacket”. Biki would have been at the very top of my personal ‘best-dressed list’ during my 21 years as Editor-in-Chief of Travel + Leisure had I kept one.

Prs oberoi, biki oberoi, oberoi hotels
Doyen of Indian hospitality: PRS ‘Biki’ Oberoi. Image: Courtesy Oberoi Hotels.

I am aware that this statement may sound frivolous, but given the sizeable impact of presentation on success in the world of hospitality, I am offering it without discomfort. From suits and dresses to bedside lamps and tables, this is a realm where appearance and upkeep are key.

As the editor of a global travel magazine from 1993 until 2014, I was frequently out experiencing hotels and destinations throughout the world. Early on, I came to think of the leadership of hotel brands and top hotels as resembling nothing so much as a global corps of diplomats.

Like their equivalents in embassies, hotel people are aces at courtesy and comportment, and they how to deal with individuals of many different nationalities, customs, and behaviours. How else could Biki and his team have innovated Oberoi’s spectacular group of resorts that include Rajvilas, Udaivilas, Amarvilas, and Vanyavilas?

The udaivilas in udaipur, rajasthan, is a beautiful indian palace designed and built from scratch by the group.
The Udaivilas in Udaipur, Rajasthan, is a beautiful Indian palace designed and built from scratch by the group. Image: Oberoi Hotels.

One could immediately see Biki’s imprint on these properties, which so beguilingly capture the exoticism and beauty of India coupled with all the creature comforts, top-drawer service, and attention to detail that the most demanding of international luxury travellers expect. I was at T+L when Rajvilas opened in the late 1990s and visited there myself shortly after we covered it in the magazine, falling head over heels for its evocation of the colours and pleasures of Rajasthan, and its tranquility and sense of being a sanctuary.

The rajvilas in jaipur, rajasthan, is an oasis of serenity.
The Rajvilas in Jaipur, Rajasthan, is an oasis of serenity. Image: Courtesy Oberoi Hotels.

I returned in recent times to find Rajvilas as magical as ever — maybe even more so. The Vilas hotels fast became champions in T+L’s World’s Best Awards, repeatedly garnering top spots not only in India but also throughout the world. I’m quite certain that they have remained more than a little bit of a thorn in the side for other hotel companies in India and beyond.

I cannot finish without saying a few words about the Oberoi hotels in and near Delhi — the flagship property by Humayan’s tomb and the newer entry, the Oberoi Gurgaon, in that bustling tech and business hub. I adore them both — an updated urban classic and a light-filled oasis that feels miles away from this sprawling new commercial centre. It was, in fact, at a neighboring Oberoi property in Gurgaon, the Trident, that I first met Biki and formed a mental image of his elegant and dignified presence so many years ago.

Having spent the better part of a day with Vikram at the Oberoi School of Hotel Management, I believe I have at least some understanding of the secret sauce that makes these hotels and resorts so special. It’s not just the ABCs of hospitality that are taught here, but worldliness and a third eye for guests’ needs, and for the seamless delivery of services.

This seems to me what Biki and his company are all about — a respect for the rich heritage of India and a deep understanding of the interests and needs of today’s travellers, along with a tireless dedication to getting it right, and, not to forget, a peerless sense of style. And this brings me back to the exquisiteness of Biki’s sports jacket, which is no small thing.

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