Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), branded as Taj Group, is a chain of hotels and resorts headquartered at Oxford House in Mumbai, which was incorporated by the founder of the Tata group, Jamsetji Tata, in the year 1903. This company is a part of the Tata group, one of India's largest business conglomerates. As of 2015, Taj Group operates 108 hotels across India and 17 hotels in the UK, USA, Africa, Maldives, Malaysia, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, and employed over 13000 people in the year 2010. Taj Group also owns a few private islands.
Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, founder of the Tata Group, opened the Taj Mahal Palace, a hotel in Mumbai (formerly called Bombay) overlooking the Arabian Sea, on 16 December 1903. It was the first Taj property and the first Taj hotel. There are several anecdotal stories about why Tata opened the Taj hotel. According to a story he decided to open the hotel after an incident involving racial discrimination at the Watson's Hotel in Mumbai, where he was refused entry as the hotel permitted only Europeans. Hotels which accepted only European guests were very common across British India then but it seems far too petty a reason to fire a man of the calibre of Jamsetji Tata. According to another story he opened the hotel when one of his friends expressed his disgust about the hotels which were present in Bombay then. But a more plausible reason was advanced by Lovat Fraser, a close friend of the Tata and one of the early directors of the IHCL group, that the idea had long been in his mind and that he had made a study on the subject. He did not have any desire to own a hotel but he wanted to attract people to India and to improve Bombay. It is said that Jamsetji Tata had travelled to places like London, Paris, Berlin and Düsseldorf to arrange for materials and pieces of art, furniture and interior artefacts for his hotel. The Taj group has since then developed and flourished, under the Tata Group.
In 1974, the group opened India's first international five star deluxe beach resort, the Fort Aguada Beach Resort in Goa. In 1970s, the Taj Group also began its business in metropolitan hotels, opening the five-star deluxe hotel, Taj Coromandel in Chennai, in 1974, acquiring an equity interest and operating contract for the Taj President (now Vivanta by Taj - President), a business hotel in Mumbai, in 1977, and also opening the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi in 1978.
In 1980, the Taj group opened its first hotel outside India, the Taj Sheba Hotel in Sana'a, in Yemen and in the late 1980s, acquired interests in the St. James' Court Hotel (now comprising Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences and St. James' Court, A Taj Hotel) in London. In 1984, the Taj group acquired, under a license agreement, each of the Taj West End in Bangalore, Taj Connemara (now Vivanta by Taj - Connemara) in Chennai and Savoy Hotel in Ooty. With the opening of the Taj West End in Bangalore, the Taj Group made its foray into Bangalore. The five star deluxe hotel, Taj Bengal in Kolkata, was opened in the year 1989, and with this the Taj group became the only hotel chain in India with a presence in the six major metropolitan cities of India, namely Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Concurrently with the expansion of its luxury hotel chain in the major metropolitan cities, the Taj Group also expanded its business hotels division in the major metropolitan and large secondary cities in India. During the 1990s, the Taj Group continued to expand its geographic and market coverage in India. It developed specialized operations (such as wildlife lodges) and consolidated its position in established markets through the upgrading of existing properties and development of new properties. Taj also set up the Taj Kerala Hotels and Resorts Limited in the early 1990s along with the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.
Two hotels of the Taj group, namely Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, were ranked in 2013 by Condè Nast Traveler among the Top 100 Hotels and Resorts in the World. In late 2013, the Indian Traveller magazine ranked Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur and Taj Exotica Resort & Spa in Maldives on ranks 34 and 98, respectively, in the list of 100 Best Hotels & Resorts.Condè Nast Traveler also ranked the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on number 13 in the list of Gold Standard Hotels, in 2014.
Since the late 2000s, the Taj hotels' group started organising its hotels into different brands, in a market segmentation strategy.
Taj/Taj luxury - The luxury brand is the erstwhile generic brand of the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. These hotels cover business destinations, landmarks, palaces, resorts and forest destinations. Most of Taj's oldest and most prestigious hotels have been retained under this brand.
Taj Exotica - It is the resort and spa brand of Taj Hotels.
Taj Safaris - The wildlife lodges amidst the Indian national parks and national parks come under this brand label. The brand has modelled on the concept of sustainable eco-tourism.
Vivanta by Taj - Vivanta is a contemporary-luxury hotel brand. The brand caters to an upscale market and is positioned a step below the flagship Taj brand. Vivanta Hotels are found business and vacation destinations as well.
The Gateway Hotels & Resorts - Gateway is a mid-market brand, positioned below the Vivanta. It contains properties in business and vacation destinations like Vivanta does. The Gateway Hotel brand was created by Taj in its earlier market segmentation effort and has been retained and expanded in the current wave of brand-segmentation.
Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad - IHCL has been operating the Institute of Hotel Management at Aurangabad since 1993. The institute offers a four-year degree, designed with the help of international faculty and has affiliations with several American, British and European programmes.
Jiva Spa - It is the spa brand of the IHCL group and consists of the spas at selected hotels of the IHCL group.
Taj Khazana - It is a chain of luxury lifestyle stores located across India, in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Goa, in select Taj Hotels. It is a boutique which showcases and stocks artefacts, collectibles, apparels, garments and accessories created by Indian craftsmen and designers. It has been reviving of the traditional works of Indian artisans since its inception.