What is the quickest and easiest option that comes into one’s mind while thinking of booking a hotel in India? OYO Rooms. That’s the influence of Ritesh Agarwal, founder and CEO of OYO Rooms, on the Indian hospitality industry.
But his story wasn’t always full of success. Born in 1993, and hailing from a small town called Bissamcuttack from the state of Odisha, he started selling SIM cards at the age of 13. After his high school graduation, he moved to Delhi in 2011 and had briefly enrolled in University of London’s India campus. However, he dropped out and founded Oravel Stays at the age of 18, with the aim of building the Indian version of Airbnb.
During his Oravel Stays stint, he stayed at over 100 bed-and-breakfast rooms and soon realised that the issue with those rooms wasn’t discovery, rather there was no standardisation of its portals. It was around the same time that he was chosen as the first Indian recipient of the Thiel Fellowship, which gave a $100,000 grant to entrepreneurs who had skipped college to begin their own business.
He decided to pivot the business model and Oravel Stays was launched as OYO Rooms in May 2013, and the rest is history. It is currently India’s largest and fastest-growing chain of hospitality services involving leased and franchised hotels, homes and living spaces. OYO has started gaining global presence with millions of rooms across Asia, South America and the United States.
One thing that has helped him the most throughout his life is his hands-on approach and early experience which gave him insights into what needs to be done to be successful in the industry. In the early days of OYO, he used to do all the work including room service, housekeeping, sales, CEO duties, etc. He even used to check-in to various OYO Rooms to get a feel of the hoteliers‘ and customers’ experience.
And all this work has paid off for sure. He is the only dropout at OYO, heading people from top educational institutes, including IITs, IIMs, HBS and the Ivy Leagues. His net worth in 2020 is estimated to be $1.1 billion, and with the current pace of OYO’s growth, only the sky is the limit for Ritesh Agarwal.
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