Ritesh Agarwal – How he Built the fastest growing network of hotels

Oyo founder, Ritesh Agarwal, started another company before hotel chain by the name, Oravel, but failed miserably. Read the fascinating story of a young boy who became billionaire before 26.

By Ziya Hajiyani Mar 31 2021 1:11PM 2897 Read
OYO Success Story: How failed Oravel Travel turned into OYO

With a current valuation of nearly 360 CR, OYO rooms provide travelers the best yet pocket-friendly, efficient, young, standardized rooms with no add-ons connected to them which is nothing out of the box. Personally, Ritesh along with his common-man qualities of wheatish, tall, thin, seedy look, isn't easy to look for in a packed place. However, mind you, this is also the look of the founder who puts in 16 hours a day to reach his goals and make his vision come true. For as long as he can remember his journey begins a long time ago filled with struggle and sheer hard work

OYO Success Story - How did his journey begin?

The journey of this young entrepreneur began rather early than normal! Ritesh was born in Bissam Cuttack, Orissa to a middle-class family and attended the Sacred Heart School in Rayagada, Orissa.

At his early age, it was all about fun and learning for him, however, how he did things were rather unconventional and unusual as compared to those of other kids.

His fun components consisted of screwing around with the pc and trying to seek out opportunities in which he could make mistakes, thus creating an opportunity for him to learn new things. While exploring different things he gained a keen interest in software!

To quench his thirst for coding, he borrowed his elder brother's books for programming. A number of the fundamental languages like Basic and Pascal were taught in the school itself and the rest he managed to learn from Google.

When he was eight years old he had already started to learn to code. Soon software had become his passion. And by the time he reached 10th grade, he had made up his mind that he wanted to pursue coding as a career.

In 2009, Ritesh left for Kota to pursue jee and in no time he realized that Kota could not teach him any kind of coding. Hence, his dream of cryptography took a backseat and as he had loads of leisure time, he started attending Bansal Tutorials that his father had got him registered into. He spent the remainder of his time exploring, traveling, and of course, chilling around .

He even started writing a book and ended up publishing a very successful book called ‘Indian Engineering Colleges: A Complete Encyclopaedia of Top 100 Engineering Colleges'.

At the age of 16, along with 240 other students Ritesh was chosen to be a part of the Asian Science Camp at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai.

The camp was a yearly forum for pre-collegiate students whose goal was to promote discussion for the improvement of science within the region.

During this period; Ritesh thanks to the advantage of the free time that he had, used it to travel, and stayed in low-cost hotels, bed and breakfast, and small inns. When he was in Delhi he used to attend events and conferences to meet various entrepreneurs. Many a time he could not afford the registration fee and would therefore just quietly sneak in.

OYO Success Story - Life as an Entrepreneur…!I. Oyo Travel - The Formation

In the year 2011, Mr. Agarwal shifted to Delhi with the hopes of kicking off something unique, and at the same time, he was getting ready to appear for SAT, the exam required to move to the USA for higher studies.

In those days money wasn't a hassle for him due to the abundant savings he had from Kota and all the pocket money he got which was approximately Rs.15,000 for a month.

But fortunately or unfortunately, he did not appear for the SAT. Therefore, he did nothing but read about entrepreneurs, study start-ups, businesses, and understand the concept of Airbnb in depth.

Ritesh had traveled a fair share, and he noticed that the budget hotels in our county didn't even meet the very basic needs of a person. Therefore, capitalizing on this chance, he started his very first venture in the year 2012 — Oravel Stays. It was a bunch of bed and breakfast stays across India.

In less complicated terms, it had been meant to be a destination for brief and midterm rentals for bed and breakfast joints, serviced flats, and personal rooms.

In a matter of no time, he conjointly secured funding of Rs 30 lakhs from VentureNursery, an accelerator firm that brought along a bunch of storied investors to nurture start-ups.

With a decent amount of money in his pockets, he started to work on his new interest, and at the same time, he conjointly conferred his plan at the Thiel Fellowship — a global competition for students below the age of 20. He reached the top ten finalists of the competition and received a lump sum amount of $100,000. With the boost in confidence, he started putting in additional hours at work but due to his bad luck, their business model didn't appear to be work. And even after all the hard work, things didn't seem to fall in place.

Ritesh even got Manish Sinha of Gurgaon-based Cinnamon Stays, as their co-founder however salt, even that didn't work and eventually, Manish had to quit the corporate.

II. Oravel into OYO - The Transformation

That was the moment when Ritesh realized that, the largest pain in the ass while traveling was to find a reasonably priced, decent & more significantly “available” hotel to stay in however as always, most folks ended up staying in a creepy disgusting place with equally shitty staff and food that would give you an upset. Basically, a hotel that would spoil the vibe of an entire holiday.

That additionally reminded him of the time he used to face accommodation issues while on business trips. There were times when he stayed in a crappy place for a huge amount and many-a-times he used to find a nice place at half the price.

That got him motivated yet again, to start an online yet social community to bring data regarding all good hotels together on one platform.

And as a final resort, in 2013 Mr. Agarwal re-launched Oravel as OYO Rooms.

OYO Rooms was nothing, it had been simply a plan to create India's largest chain of well organized, basic rooms to build a reliable chain of no add-on rooms that would not have a pool, a gymnasium, etc like the high-end hotels but would live up to the basic standards of cleanliness and comfort for reasonable prices.

To ensure that the hotels met their expectations; OYO Rooms reached out to prospective hotels or a hotel owner may conjointly reach out to them, and OYO's team would visit the place, audit the hotel to see if there were any changes required to standardize the property as per OYO standards.

After the launch, Ritesh even got on board Bhawna Agarwal, former chief executive officer at e-commerce firm Seventy MM for vital business advising.

This time they set to play it smart & safe and made sure they left no stone unturned. Soon things began to get well for them and to meet the demands they eventually had to increase their team of two to twenty and then thirty and then so on.

The cooperate raised Rs. 4 CR from Light speed Venture Partners (LSVP) and DSG Consumer Partners in the year 2014.

What drove Ritesh, even more, was that currently, the company was making bookings worth more than Rs.1 Cr. per month.

Now OYO Rooms has gone on to become India's first technology-driven network of standardized branded budget hotels. It has around 500+ hotels and 8000+ rooms across 25 cities like Mumbai, Goa, Pune, and Delhi.

The OYO Rooms mobile app has been downloaded more than 250,000 times and more than 80,000 bookings have been made so far.

OYO Success Story – Agarwal's Accomplishments

Mr. Agarwal received many awards such as the TiE-Lumis Entrepreneurial Excellence Award (2014), the Top 50 Entrepreneurs by TATA First Dot Award (2013), and Global Student Entrepreneurship Award-India. He was also the World's Youngest CEO at 17(recognized at 16). He was also given the title of one of ‘8 Hottest Teenage Start-Up Founders in the World' by Business Insider (2013).

He was the first Asian to win the '20 under 20' Thiel Fellowship (2013).

Ziya Hajiyani
Ziya Hajiyani View More Posts

Currently studying in the 12th grade, Ziya is an ambitious introvert pursuing jee . She expresses herself through her writing and photography . Her diverse way of thinking makes her standout from the crowd. She has a passion for travelling and loves animals

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