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Is Business a Religion? Amazing people at Taj Hotel

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When I visit Bangalore, I stay at Gateway Hotel. Last week was my second time staying there, and their hospitality made me feel quite comfortable. I was wondering why my experience was better than expected, but after talking with Rajesh about an incident that occurred in 2008, it became somewhat understandable.

Last week, shortly after I had arrived, Rajesh and I were talking about a case that was used during his Executive Education course at Harvard Business School. The case was about one of the tragedies in Mumbai in 2008, during which simultaneous terroristic attacks to the city occurred. I hadn't known how violent the incidents were, but I would like to share a little bit of what I heard from him.

In one of the incidents, terrorists attacked Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Although the terrorists tried to make the hotel staff to hand over guests to take them as hostages, the staff resisted. Some of the staff even made a human barrier to take the bullets. Some of them stayed behind and hid in the hotel kitchen, making phone calls to each room, making customers aware of the situation, and telling them to hide in their rooms with their key cards taken out so terrorists wouldn't know they were in there.

The hotel manager and his family members had a room in the hotel in which they were living. The room was fired at by the terrorists, but since the manager did not evacuate his place, none of his family members except him survived. The amazing thing about the case was that very hotel manager was in Boston at the time when Rajesh was studying there. He was a guest speaker expressing his insights and unable to hold back his tears.

In an extreme situation like a terrorist attack, what makes people behave like the staff or the manager? What is the motivation behind their sense of responsibility? Is business a religion, and the staff were like martyrs? There seems to have been something deeper hidden in the staff hospitality at the Gateway hotel in Bangalore, which by the way, is a part of the Taj group.

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