The Taj Way: Organisational Behaviour In Action – Pooja, TISS Mumbai

On November 26, 2008, Mumbai was held hostage. Gunmen stormed into many prominent places in the city and shot down people. One of these places was the Taj Mahal Hotel. Stories of exemplary courage and sacrifice emerged, as ordinary citizens of Mumbai stood united in the face of terror.

In Taj Mahal Hotel, the case was no different. As the congenial buzz of conversation was shattered by the bullets, the staff at the hotel redefined customer centricity. They didn’t abandon their posts and flee to safety. They didn’t leave their guests at the mercy of armed men intent on murder. They didn’t They put the security of the guests above their own, and assisted in the safety and evacuation process of about 1500 to 2000 guests who were in the hotel that day. At the end of 2 days, when the threat of terror had been completely extinguished, 31 people had died and 28 had been injured. Out of the casualties, about one-third were hotel employees who had laid down their lives while ushering guests to safety. There was world-wide appreciation of the courage displayed by Taj employees that day. The restaurant and banquet staff had escorted people to safe places like the basement, while the kitchen staff had formed human shields around the guests as they attempted to escape. Telephone operators remained at their stations, asking guests to remain in their rooms and not step out. There were many heroes who sacrificed their lives that day.

The question that arose was natural – why would the employees of Taj behave in such a manner? What prompted them to put the lives of guests above their own? What made them stay put even as the air was rent with sound of bullets and anguish?

Rohit Deshpande, Sebastian S. Kresge Professor of Marketing at Harvard Business School, and Anjali Raina, executive director of HBS India Research Center decided to investigate this phenomenon. Deshpande was working on a case study centered around branding at Taj when he heard about employee behaviour during that attacks. As he conducted interviews, he heard the people talking about the 26/11 attacks, and how they had impacted the organisation. With permission from the Tatas, he returned to find out the answer.



According to Deshpande and Raina, the answer lies in the unusual recruitment, training and incentive system at the Taj. Taj hires from smaller cities, not metros, and looks for people who display the values that the group prizes. Even the management trainees are not hired out of top tier schools – they prefer to hire people who are looking for a long term career with the company, and hence pass over the top tier schools where graduates are more likely to switch jobs. The training period is long and intensive. The staff is trained to act as the customers’ ambassadors, which makes them feel empowered to make decisions. The same empowered behaviour was displayed that November night – they took decisions on their own, which allowed them to save lives of hundreds of guests. The incentive system at the Taj – STARS is a unique system that links customer delight to employee reward. STARS has won the Hermes award in 2002 for the best human resource innovation in the global hospitality industry.

This unique organisation culture has put Taj way ahead of it’s competitors. The learnings that we can derive out of this are immense. The Taj case is an example of how organisations are built. All the processes in the Taj are geared towards one thing – delighting the customers. Is it any wonder that customer centricity is at the core of how the organisation works?

References:, Retrieved 4 September 2016, 8:00 am, Retrieved 4 September 2016, 9:10 am



About the Author:


Pooja Wanpal considers reading the sole aim of her life. She is obsessed with trekking, pani puri, and adores traveling. She is a freelance content writer, and has penned the novel, ‘Love and Lokpal’. She is currently studying Human Resource Management and Labour Relations at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is also a part of the InsideIIM Student Team 2016-17.