The curious story of Dadi Balsara, the Parsi billionaire who stayed at Taj Mansingh Hotel for 36 years
Article by by Poulomi Das, businessinsider.in
Taj Mansingh Hotel situated in Lutyens Delhi towards the southwest of India Gate is one of the rare examples of Mughal architecture in the city. Constructed entirely out of pink Dholpur sandstone and set amidst a garden, Taj Mansingh is an epitome of luxury and indulgence and while a lot of people dream of actually living in this five-star property, one man actually made that very wish come true- that too for 37 years.
Meet Dadi Balsara, the Parsi businessman who had lived in Taj Mansingh Hotel for a whopping 36 years- becoming Taj Mansingh Hotel’s long-standing guest until he passed away in 2014 at the age of 71.
Balsara and his wife Christina Stone (who passed away in 2009) both made the Room no 901, one of Taj Mansingh’s luxury suite their home and lived and loved the hotel as his own. The couple had no children.
According to hotel sources, Balsara never felt the need of buying a house in the city as he considered Taj Mansingh as his home and the hotel staff his extended family. He not only knew the hotel like the palm of his hand, but was also incredibly close to the staff. In the course of his 36-year-long stay, he had grown close to a valet who was considered more of Balsara’s personal aide, rather than a hotel staffer.
He was also the first member of the Taj InnerCircle loyalty programme. The hotel staff also talked of how co-operative Balsara was.
“Whenever we would have a VIP guest- such as the Prime Minister or President of some country staying with us, who wanted the floor to be cleared- we would inform of him of the same and he would promptly comply with their wishes and would return only when the guest had left the hotel.”
Infact, it was Balsara who had set up the largest natural mineral water plant in Dhaula Kaun in Himachal Pradesh in with an investment of $20 million and created the niche Himayalan mineral water brand. Manufactured by his Mount Everest Mineral Water Limited, he ensured that Himayalan stands out in the highly competitive bottled water segment in the country.
And, as luck would have it, taking his association with the hospitality brand one step closer, he sold off his priced asset, the Himalayan brand to none other than the Tata Group in 2007. This marked Tata Global Beverages foray into the Indian packaged water segment.
Contrary to popular belief, Balsara was not born a billionaire. He was born into a family of modest means and began his career as an LIC officer in Nagpur, earning a meager salary of Rs 600. He later went on to the US to study psychiatry on a scholarship and started his own practice after obtaining a doctorate.
Unfortunately, he was forced to look at other career options when his practice failed as hardly anyone turned up for a consultation.
His big break came when a Japanese television channel decided to host his ‘holistic lifestyle’ programmes which as time passed became a roaring success and finally money started to roll in.
It was only uphill from there. Balsara later settle in Singapore where he earned the title of ‘Perfumes king of Asia’ by selling perfumes. In 1991 he decided to come back to India and settled in Delhi.
With a business empire spread across 63 countries, Balsara was one of the richest NRI at the time of his death. He reportedly had Rs 250 crore in his bank account.
There were two Taj properties in Delhi during the 80’s. The one on Mansingh Road was The Taj Mahal Hotel and the Dhaula Kuan property was the Taj Palace Hotel. Every time i hear Taj Mahal Hotel being referred to as Taj Mansingh, I cringe ….