What Got Oyo Founder Ritesh Agarwal Into Entrepreneur's 35under35 list

Ritesh Agarwal created the biggest hotel chain bringing 4,50,000 rooms across 13,000+ properties under one ambit

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Deputy Editor, Entrepreneur India Magazine
4 min read
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Blenders Pride Reserve Collection presents Entrepreneur's 35U35 list, which includes some path-breaking names from the field of entrepreneurship. At just 25, Oyo founder Ritesh Agarwal, who made it to the cover of the magazine, has become a sensation capturing markets in Japan, US, China, Singapore and England and as you are reading this, he may be overtaking yet another market in another continent augmenting to his recent valuation of 5-billion dollar.

There is something unusual about Ritesh Agarwal. His looks don’t carry the fancy tags typically associated with a hotelier. His simplicity charms you the most and enthralls you about keeping splash offs to the bare minimum. The man who has been in the media limelight would always be on roads to check out on one of his Oyo hotels or expanding to markets like China. Building a startup which matches with his personality of being surreal and giving employment to not just a 10,000 oyopreneurs but partners all over to build a vision of the world’s largest hotel network is a journey he says, which has just begun.

When you are toying with an idea as a teen entrepreneur, how far can it take you? The answer is it can take you to more than 500 cities across India, China, Malaysia, Nepal, the UK, UAE and Indonesia with more than 4,50,000 rooms across 13,000+ hotels. From a child prodigy to becoming a teen startup sensation to becoming an entrepreneur building the largest hotel network in the country, Agarwal has come of age. A look at Agarwal’s earlier graph as a child would tell you something innate. “I have always had that fire in the belly to do something different from the norm, something that I can look back on and feel proud of. It was never about making it big, it was about finding something that I truly believed in and can commit to for years to come,” Agarwal shares about his early tryst with entrepreneurship.

About his idea of entrepreneurship, Agarwal says, “Ever since I was a kid, I dreamt of having a business of my own and grew up working toward fulfilling this dream. From the very beginning, I had an inclination towards travelling and always wanted to explore even the most unexplored places. During my travels, I realized the lack of standardized and predictable options for accommodation as were missing in some cases. Finding the ideal accommodation at an affordable price was a huge challenge.” That’s how the Oyo journey started, from one property in 2013 to becoming the largest hotel network in the country.

The turning point for Agarwal founder was the fellowship he received from Peter Theil prior to embarking on his entrepreneurial journey with Oyo. Sharing his most invaluable learning from the journey, he says, “I learned to trust the power of a unique idea, rather than trying to build an Indian version of a US or Chinese company.” Getting mentored by Peter Theil really changed his worldview and gave him a new perspective to entrepreneurship. “He taught me to partner with the right people who shared the same values,” adds Agarwal.

Oyo has truly been a story of an Indian startup taking the world by storm. The man is on a mission to build the world’s largest hotel network. After conquering India, Oyo has already become the fifth largest player in China. Agarwal avers, “We are among the top five hotel chains in China. Currently, our footprint spans across 285 cities in the country with over 260,000 exclusive rooms and 5,000 franchised and leased hotels.”

Delving on his vision, he says, “We can foresee an enormous opportunity for us to become the largest hotel chain in the world in the years to come. Hence, there is no stopping for us.” Southeast Asia has become an extremely lucrative market as Oyo plans to invest over $200 million across the region by 2023 for expanding its footprint, plus the Middle East. Agarwal says, “We are using technology extensively to sustain and increase the quality of operations. We have been able to deliver good hospitality, which has helped us to scale up rapidly.” Last year, Oyo checked in the unicorn club after raising $1 billion from Softbank at a valuation of $5 billion.

(This article appears in the February 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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