If you find yourself blown away with the splendour of a hotel room in a not so famous hotel, you have to thank 21-year-old Ritesh Agarwal.
His company, Oyo Rooms, is behind the sprucing up and rebranding of around 2,200 hotels operating in 100 cities across India.
It started in 2013 with just Rs.58,000 and one Gurgaon hotel as a client. The BBC reports
that his firm, which now earns a monthly revenue of around Rs.23 crores and employs 1,500 people, works towards improving the facilities of hitherto unknown hotels and train the staff.
His company then associates their own name as part of the rebranding exercise and, thereafter, takes a percentage of the hotel’s revenues. Agarwal, who is the founder and chief executive of the company, says that the idea hit him when he landed up at a hotel where the room was in a pitiable condition. He was 18 then.
“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.”
Oyo also has an app using which can do everything from booking rooms to ordering room service for users.
His rise at such a young age can be attributed to his winning the Thiel fellowship – a programme sponsored by PayPal co-creator Peter Thiel. The fellowship is awarded to 20 teenagers to encourage them to take up business.
They receive $100,000 and mentorship from the foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs, investors and scientists.
The funds from the fellowship helped him start the business. Investors saw innovation in his idea and his own conviction that drove the business. Oyo attracted Lightspeed Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Greenoaks Capital and DSG Consumer Partners as investors.
Today the company has secured an investment of $100m from Masayoshi Son’s Softbank.
Agarwal recalls, “I took our first investor to the hotel we had developed and the other hotels where there were many problems. He saw the conviction in us and felt good about investing in something which he saw could make a difference.” From Rayagada, Odisha, Agarwal started coding at the age of eight.
“I used my brother’s books, and it was the first time I saw stuff happening on the computer, because of the things I had done. That is when I first felt the excitement of creating stuff from scratch and it never stopped.”
He believes that starting early is the key to success.