They say behind every revolution is an equally revolutionary story. The exclusive Taj Mahal Palace and Tower in Mumbai is no exception to the above adage. This architectural icon was inaugurated on 16 December, 1903; although the foundation stone was laid five years earlier by Jamsetji.But what sparked the conception of the hotel? A bland refusal and a pioneer’s hurt ego, apparently! Back in 1890s, Jamsetji was once denied entry into the then grandest Mumbai hotel, Watson’s Esplanade. The reason? The Watson’s Hotel maintained a strict “whites only” policy for granting entry to its guests. Although the story has not been corroborated by the Taj Group, modern folklore believes otherwise.
This was enough and Jamsetji played with the idea of making his own hotel that was above par with the Watson’s. Tata was further egged on by the then Times of India editor to build a hotel that was “worthy of Bombay”. Although Tata faced criticism from his partners and family alike, he still decided to go ahead with the project. Two Indian architects, Sitaram Khaderao Vaidya and D.N. Mirza, were first hired to put the plan to paper. The project was later completed by W.A. Chambers, an English engineer. Jamsetji’s friend, Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji Contractor, was hired as the builder and designed the central floating staircase the Taj is so famous for today. For construction, Tata imported the same steel as was used in the Eiffel Tower. Other costly imports were Turkish Baths, German Elevators, American Fans and English Butlers. The construction cost was a staggering £250,000 (we are talking about the 1900s). The same amount converts to £135 million in modern currency. Tata’s entrepreneurial prowess’ first milestone had been launched. And it was only the first.