Monday, September 14, 2015

The 21-year-old building India's largest hotel network

One night, 18-year-old Ritesh Agarwal was locked out of his apartment in Delhi. It was an unfortunate minor incident that was to change his life.
Forced to check into a hotel he found himself in a situation he had already experienced several times while travelling in India.
"The receptionist was sleeping," he says.
"Sockets did not work in the room, mattresses were torn apart, the bathroom was leaking, and at the end they wouldn't let me pay by card."
"I felt if this was my problem, this had to be a problem for many travellers. Why can't India have a good standard of hotel rooms at a reasonable price?''
Four years later, at the age of 21, Mr Agarwal is now the founder and chief executive of 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 benefits from a higher occupancy rate, thanks to Oyo's branding.
And as part of the business, Mr Agarwal has also 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.
Tough journey
Despite such rapid growth, he says the early days were "extremely difficult".
"No one would believe that this could be a technology business in the future," he says.
But some people did believe in him. A similar idea - which eventually evolved into Oyo Rooms - won him a coveted Thiel Fellowship - a programme sponsored by PayPal co-creator and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel - which pays for 20 teenagers each year to stop studying and try to set up a business instead.
He used the funding from the fellowship to start the business.

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