I’m sure everyone in India is familiar with Oyo hotels. The big flashy sign with OYO written in white against a bold red backdrop is unmissable. But the more interesting thing about these budget hotels is their backstory. Its growth from a no-name brand to becoming synonymous with budget hotels in India. And the man behind its success is the young Ritesh Agarwal, one of India’s youngest self-made billionaires. So, without further ado, here is the success story of OYO.
The story of OYO began way back in 2011. The then 17-year-old Ritesh Agarwal made his way to Kota for coaching classes. But he realized that Kota was not where his passion lay. He began fiddling around and even writing a book about engineering colleges in the meantime.
An avid traveler, Agarwal noticed that the quality was not up to par with budget hotels outside India whenever he traveled and stayed in hotels. So he started Oravel, modeling it after Airbnb, which would become the foundation of OYO that we see today. Oravel was an online platform where users could book bed and breakfast hotels and homestays across India.
In 2013, he would receive the prestigious Thiel Fellowship, which is awarded to 20 promising teenagers from across the world every year. Under this fellowship, he would get an opportunity to travel to the US and be mentored by experts in tech and business, including Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal. He was also given a 100,000 USD grant which he would later on use to finance OYO Rooms.
Rise of OYO
Agarwal’s stint among entrepreneurs and tech gurus inspired him to launch his own full-fledged business. So in 2013, Aggarwal re-launched Oravel as OYO Rooms by reaching out to hotel owners he knew from his previous venture. He started with leasing budget hotels under the new brand name. This was the first step towards the success story of OYO.
Agarwal wanted hotels that provided basic yet quality amenities within a reasonable budget, and he was able to do just that. The hotels under the OYO brand are now known for their basic amenities, cleanliness, and comfortable rooms.
OYO has slowly grown from a fledgling startup receiving its Series A funding in 2014 to hitting the 1 million check-in milestone in 2016 and expanding its business outside India. Having achieved unicorn status, OYO expanded operations to Malaysia, Singapore, China, Dubai, and the UK by 2018.
With the smashing success of OYO’s budget hotel model, Agarwal expanded his company through the OYO Hospitality and Homes brand to start the OYO Townhouse, which aims at providing premium amenities at a budget. Silver Key, aimed at corporate travelers looking for business accommodations and OYO homes, which offer vacation homes.
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The success story of OYO is inspiring and downright amazing. The company has slowly built its reputation as a trusted brand across India and the world, and it’s all thanks to one young man who dreamed big and worked hard to achieve his vision.