As more information emerged about Wednesday night's attacks, it became clear that Unilever PLC's top executives were lucky to escape from the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel alive.
On the night, outgoing Chief Executive Patrick Cescau was at the hotel for a farewell dinner with executives from Unilever's big Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Unilever Ltd., according to a person familiar with the situation. With him was his designated successor, Paul Polman, and Harish Manwani, the head of Unilever's Asian, African, Central and Eastern European operations, the person said. Hindustan Unilever's CEO, Nitin Paranjpe, was also there.
The group had started dinner when the hotel was attacked, the person said. The hotel's exit was blocked by the terrorists, keeping them trapped for most of the night, the person said.
Firefighters rescued the group early Thursday morning, pulling them out through the hotel's windows onto ladders, the person said.—Aaron O. Patrick
Banking Executive Is Dead
Ashok Kapur, the nonexecutive chairman of Indian banking company Yes Bank Ltd., died in the complex that houses the Oberoi Trident Hotel in southern Mumbai, a family member said Friday.
Mr. Kapur and his wife, Madhu, were finishing dessert Wednesday night at the Kandahar Restaurant when terrorists entered and begin firing, according to Mrs. Kapur.
The couple tried to escape from a side exit but a gunman blocked their path and told them to stop, Mrs. Kapur said. When the man was distracted, Mrs. Kapur dashed past him and ran through passages to the swimming pool area, she said. When she finally looked behind her, her husband wasn't there.
For two days, Mrs. Kapur and her daughter, brother-in-law, niece and other friends have maintained a vigil outside the hotel complex, waiting and hoping he was safe and would emerge when the terrorists were overpowered.
On Friday evening, the family was told Mr. Kapur may not have survived. They were taken inside the hotel and identified his body among those of the dead.
-- Geeta Anand
Indian Carriers Face Squeeze
With India's airlines already strapped for cash and buffeted by a combination of higher fuel-prices and lower passenger traffic, the Mumbai terror attacks are expected to cause further industry disruptions.
Before the attacks, the country's carriers were projected to report annual losses totaling more that $1.5 billion. Both international and domestic air-traffic in India has shrunk over the past few months.
And U.S. hotel officials said this week's events are bound to accelerate the downturn by discouraging foreign tourism. Starting during the summer, India's largest carriers began scaling back plans for overseas expansion and canceling selected long-range flights.
Foreign carriers, which have been seeking ways to get an equity stake in some Indian carriers, may use the opportunity to step up those efforts. Foreign carriers, meanwhile, have been trying to swoop in with low-cost fares. In the past few months, domestic air traffic in India has dropped by more than 15%.
Despite such ripples from the global economic downturn, India still was projected to be the world's fastest-growing aviation market, with plans to build some 30 new airports over the next two decades. Through 2020, some projections envision a nearly $300 billion market for new aircraft.—Andy Pasztor
Briton Dies in Attacks
At least one British national died as a result of the terrorist attacks on two luxury hotels and other sites in Mumbai, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth office said Thursday.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband also said that at least seven British nationals were injured in the attacks. It was not clear if any of those had died and Mr. Miliband declined to elaborate.
The Cypriot Foreign Ministery later confirmed the dead Briton as Cypriot-born yachting tycoon Andreas Liveras.
Mr. Miliband condemned the attacks, saying they "remind us, yet again, of the threat we face from violent extremists." Mr. Miliband was visiting Pakistan to meet with leaders and discuss issues such as combating terrorism when the attacks happened.
The diplomatic official said the British continue to monitor the situation. The Foreign and Commonwealth office is advising all British nationals in Mumbai to stay indoors and advises against all nonessential travel to Mumbai and its surrounding area.
More than 734,000 British tourists visit India every year and the two countries have close business ties. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had sent a message to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offering "all necessary help."
"These outrageous attacks in Mumbai will be met with a vigorous response," Mr. Brown said in a statement. "Urgent action is underway to offer every possible protection to British citizens in the region."
The U.K. is sending police to India to help the authorities there investigate the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Mr. Brown said Thursday.
"At the same time as giving support to the Indian prime minister, we are sending police and emergency teams that are well-versed in dealing with terrorism and we will try to give what support we can through British police and officials to the Indian government at this time ... that's in addition to the expert staff being sent out to help British nationals," he said in a statement.
The U.K. government has set up hotlines for people worried about the safety of friends and family. The U.K. number is +44 (0)20 7008 0000. The number in India is (0091) 112419228
Answering journalist's questions Mr. Miliband said it is "very premature" to start talking about the attack having links to Al Qaeda even if the attacks bear their "hallmarks."
"Some of the names of groups that are being circulated at the moment are not al Qaeda affiliates, but that can not be taken as a definitive view," he said.—Alistair MacDonald
England Cricket Team Postpones Games
The England cricket team has postponed two matches in India, where they are visiting for a series of matches. They are currently in Bhubaneswar in east India and were scheduled to fly further north on Thursday to Guwahati.
"The safety and security of the team is of the utmost importance," said Hugh Morris, managing director of the sport's governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board.—Alistair MacDonald
Businesses Account for Employees in Mumbai
Many multinationals with a presence in India spent Thursday accounting for their Mumbai staff. A spokesman for Microsoft Inc. said all of its employees in the city were safe, and it has advised them to work from home.
Walt Disney Co. shut its Mumbai office to allow its approximately 185 employees to be with their families and to avoid travel in the city center. The company also cancelled or deferred travel to Mumbai and other parts of India, said spokeswoman Alannah Hall-Smith.
A Japanese businessman was killed in the series of attacks, while another was injured, according to their employer, Mitsui Marubeni Liquefied Gas Co. Hisashi Tsuda, 38, an employee of the Japanese energy importer, was killed as he was checking in to the Oberoi Trident Hotel, according to a company spokesman. His colleague, Tatsuya Kessoku, sustained minor injuries, the spokesman said. The two employees were on a business trip to India. Mitsui Marubeni Liquefied Gas is a subsidiary of two trading houses, Mitsui & Co. and Marubeni Corp.
Many executives were particularly surprised that the attacks happened at Mumbai's iconic Taj hotel. "The Taj is a place where I not only stay regularly, but it is also a place where we have meetings functions and client events," said Michael Maedel, the president of WPP PLC ad agency JWT.
On Thursday night, some JWT executives were at a restaurant in central Mumbai for an annual awards ceremony, he said. But none of them were harmed, and all of the company's approximately 400 staff in the city had been accounted for on Thursday. The company has a reporting system in place to identify staff quickly in an emergency. "I have been traveling to India so regularly, I have never rated it as a high risk country," said Mr. Maedel. "I take a bit of a fatalistic approach -- things can happen to you almost anywhere," he added.
Miles Young, the incoming chief executive of WPP's Ogilvy & Mather ad agency, said that planning for any attack is difficult because they are unpredictable. "We all know Bombay is a city with security issues but it has never been on our mental danger list for an atrocity of this kind," he said. The company consciously avoids some resort venues, such as Bali, which as been the target of past attacks. His company's hotel policy "shies away from staying in iconic hotels in major tourist centers like Bombay anyway, but in many Asian cities one can hardly avoid meetings or visits to them." However, Mr. Young said that he doesn't expect the attacks to deter his company's interest in the fast-growing Indian market. He plans to visit the city soon, and "would not even think of changing that."
Other companies also underscored their commitment to the Indian market. In a memo to staff, Paul Aiello, the chief executive of News Corp.'s leading Indian broadcaster Star TV, said,"Our commitment and mission will not be deterred by such extremist and cowardly acts. We will remain focused on our path towards becoming the leading national broadcaster in India." Star has about 900 staff in India, most of them in Mumbai. None of Star's Mumbai employees had been injured in the attacks. News Corp. also owns Dow Jones & Co. Inc., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.—--Ellen Byron, Yumiko Ono, Alison Tudor, Geoffrey A.Fowler, Aaron Patrick, Geeta Anand and John Satish Kumar
Iconic Taj Mahal Hotel Is a Symbol of Mumbai's Tastes, Wealth
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel & Resort is one of the most iconic buildings in Mumbai and India, a symbol of the city's classic tastes as well as its wealth. It is where almost all visiting dignitaries and celebrities stay. Past guests include Bill Clinton, Jacqueline Onassis, Mick Jagger and the Beatles.
Below is a history of the hotel from its Web site.
The Taj Mahal Palace hotel resort was commissioned by Jamsetji Tata and first opened its doors to guests on December 16, 1903. Tata allegedly decided to build the luxurious hotel after he was refused entry to one of the city's grand hotels of the time, Watson's Hotel, as it was restricted to 'whites only'. The original Indian architects were Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza, but the project was completed by an English engineer W. A. Chambers. The cost of construction was 421 million rupees. During the World War I, the hotel was converted into a 600-bed hospital.
The side of the hotel seen from the harbor is actually its rear. The front faces away to the west. There is a widespread misconception that the architects' building plans were confused by the builder so that he built it facing away from the harbor. This is not true, as the hotel was deliberately built facing inland rather than to the harbor. This was probably a deliberate snub to the British king by Jamsedji Tata due to nationalist feelings. Some people believe that the front of the hotel had to face inland because the horse carriages, in which guests came to the hotel, could easily approach the hotel from the city. The carriages were then taken to Wellington Mews. Five decades ago, the old front was closed off, and access is since then through the seaside (former rear).
There used to be a Green's Hotel at the Apollo Bunder, which was purchased by the Taj Mahal Hotel. It was at the Green's Hotel, that a small group of pro-Indian Goans (largely employees of the Indian state and communists) assembled and formed the Goan Liberation Council demanding that Portugal cede Goa to India, in the 1950s. This was done at the instigation of Jawaharlal Nehru, and funded by the Kamani Group of Companies. In 1973, Green's hotel was demolished and the present Tower wing was constructed in its place.
Currently, the hotel is owned by Taj Hotels, one of the most successful Luxury Hotel & Resort chains in India.
Hotels Increase Security
U.S. hotel chains also scrambled to assess the situation and step up security at some properties. At Marriott International Inc., which operates three hotels in India but wasn't directly impacted by the attacks, a spokesman said the company moved to enhance security at all of those locations.
Among other things, Marriott restricted access to the hotels, posted armed guards and began screening all vehicles arriving there. The spokesman said none of those measures were "standard procedure" at its Indian properties before Thursday's attacks. Press officials at Hilton Hotels Corp. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. weren't immediately available for comment.
Marriott spokesman Catherine Leitner said the company has three properties in Mumbai, but none of them have been directly affected. She said "security at these properties has been raised to the highest level," includes the presence of armed guards and "other provisions to prohibit access."
Marriott's three hotels are on the opposite side of Mumbai from the southern financial district. They are in the northern part of the city, near the international airport.—Andy Pasztor
Airlines Monitor Situation
After Wednesday's attacks in Mumbai, international airlines flying to and from the Indian metropolis said they were monitoring the security situation there to determine whether or not they should cancel flights in order to protect passengers and crew, who could be exposed if additional hotels came under attack.
There are three direct flights a day from the U.S. to Mumbai. Delta Airlines Inc., which started daily service to the city from its Atlanta hub this year, said it had cancelled Thursday's flight and was in the process of informing passengers. Flights for the rest of the week were also being reviewed.
Continental Airlines Inc., the only other U.S. carrier that flies to Mumbai, said it would determine early Thursday whether to cancel its daily flight from Newark, N.J. Thursday's daily flight hadn't been scheduled, the airline said, because of historically low demand on the route ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
German carrier Deutsche Lufthansa AG has two flights to Mumbai -- one each from Munich and Frankfurt -- and it cancelled both on Thursday. The carrier's one flight Wednesday, from Frankfurt, was diverted en route to Delhi. "We continue monitoring the situation" to decide whether to cancel more flights, a spokeswoman in Brussels said.
A spokesman for Swiss International Air Lines, an independent unit of Deutsche Lufthansa, said its flights are operating normally. The spokesman said Swiss crews aren't based near the bombings, so there were no disruptions, and Swiss's security analysts felt it was safe to operate. "We have had no problems so far," the spokesman said.
Air France cancelled a Thursday morning flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Mumbai and last night's flight from Mumbai to Paris, but tonight's flight to Mumbai is scheduled to operate normally. An Air France spokeswoman didn't have information on cancellations, but said what normally happens in situations like this is that passengers are more likely to reschedule trips than to cancel them outright.
A spokeswoman for Virgin said the airline hasn't cancelled any flights to India. The airline's daily London to Mumbai flight left as scheduled at 10 p.m. last night and tonight's flight is scheduled to leave on time. She said she couldn't comment on whether passengers were calling to cancel or change flights.
British Aiways PLC, one of the foreign carriers with the biggest presence in Mumbai, with two flights from London per day, said it would operate its normal schedule.
Air India provides one direct daily flight from Newark to Mumbai. The company couldn't be reached immediately, but seats were still available online for a flight leaving Thursday.
India's local carriers haven't canceled flights to and from Mumbai. Jet Airways (India) Ltd., the country's top domestic airline by market share, and rival state-run Air India said their flights were operating as scheduled and they haven't canceled or clubbed their Mumbai flights.
Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. said it is clubbing its Mumbai flights as many passengers aren't traveling. The Bangalore-based airline has pooled about 10 flights to and from Mumbai, Prakash Mirpuri, a spokesman for the UB Group, which controls the carrier, said.
American carriers are usually "a bit more conservative" with scheduling after an attack while foreign carriers are more likely to maintain all flights, said Jared Blank, editor of Tripmela.com, a newsletter for people who travel within India. Either way, "it really is a difficult call."
Travel safety site Safetraveler.com issued an advisory recommending that fliers "defer all travel to Mumbai" and asked anyone already at the airport in Mumbai to remain there "until the situation stabilizes."
Mr. Blank expects the Mumbai attacks to damp demand for U.S-Indian luxury travel but not the plans of Indian nationals returning home to visit family, typically in December and January. That segment accounts for 70% of the U.S.-Indian travel market, Mr. Blank said. "People are going to go home," he said, adding that "terrorism in India is becoming a part of life there as it was in London in the 1980s. People are starting to get used to the idea that these sorts of events are going to happen."—Paulo Prada, Daniel Fitzpatrick, Nitin Luthra, Dan Michaels and Jeanne Whalen