Ritesh Agarwal is a 21-year-old who decided to take charge of his situation and make a name in one of the most populous nations in the world.
An experience he had while locked out out of his house in New Delhi changed his life for good. He had checked into a hotel and discovered how everything didn’t seem to be working perfectly and he thought of how he could change this and make the hotel business a better and more appealing business for its users.
Agarwal in 2013 founded Oyo Rooms – a network of 2,200 hotels operating in 100 cities across India – with monthly revenues of $3.5m (£2.3m) and 1,500 employees.
The firm works with unbranded hotels to improve their facilities and train staff, rebrands them with its own name, and from then on takes a percentage of the hotel’s revenues. The owner of the hotel then benefits from a higher occupancy rate, thanks to Oyo’s branding.
To make the business more effective, Mr Agarwal developed an app, which guests can use to book rooms, get directions to the hotel, and once they have arrived, to use the hotels amenities, for example to order room service.
Agarwal’s success story has had its own share of highs and lows. Starting off was extremely strenuous for him and many failed to see the potential of his business idea. He was able to secure a Thiel Fellowship – a programme sponsored by PayPal co-creator and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel, which pays 20 teenagers to quit school and become entrepreneurs instead. He used what he got from Thiel as seed money to start up his company.
At inception, Agarwal had just one hotel he was working with and from their, kept working at his hardest to get to the top.
Now the business has grown, it has become much easier to attract investors, and the firm recently secured $100m from Japan’s Softbank.
When the company first started, Agarwal was told by many that he was crazy.
Shrugging this off, the tech prodigy said, “But because it was crazy, it was doable. It’s true: if you think crazy stuff that is when it becomes a lot more doable.”
Now, Ritesh wants to expand globally and become the creator of the world’s largest network of hotel rooms.
His advice to young upcomers? “Start early”, he says, “Start really fast and, if you fail, you will learn and the chances of success in the next venture will increase.”