Ritesh Agarway: How A 22-Year-Old College Dropout Built India’s Largest Budget Hotel Chain

Ritesh Agarwal is the 22-year-old founder and CEO of OYO Rooms, India’s largest budget hotel chain with 40,000 rooms under its umbrella. The company’s continued growth can be largely attributed to the young entrepreneur’s resilience and business acumen.

According to an e27 profile of the young entrepreneur, in 2012, Agarwal, then a 17-year-old college drop-out, tried his luck in entrepreneurship by starting Worth Growth Partners. His unsuccessful venture eventually made him broke and got him kicked from his rented apartment.

Only months later, he launched a short-stay accommodation firm modeled after Airbnb called Oravel Stays.

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While several investors, such as VentureNursery, DSG Consumer Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners, took notice of Oravel, it was eventually closed in mid-2014 for failing to meet its projected growth targets.

In the same year, Agarwal got selected for the Thiel Fellowship, a fellowship created by PayPal founder Peter Thiel that provides $100,000 to college drop-outs under 22 years of age to pursue their business ideas. He was the first Indian to ever win the grant.

The young entrepreneur then launched a budget hotel-booking portal he called OYO Rooms after realizing that just bed and breakfasts aggregation wouldn’t be able to solve budget travelers’ problems. Being the first in India, it became an instant hit with middle-class families.

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Seeing its huge growth potential, SoftBank invested a cool $100 million into the startup in mid-2015. Other firms who have co-invested include Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Greenoaks Capital, DSG Consumer Partners and VentureNursery.

Just last month, SoftBank brought in another $100 million and an international sovereign fund of an undisclosed amount.

“Profitability has come from innovating revenue-sharing models, a deep understanding of our markets and enabling new demand growth channels,” Agarwal said in a statement. “These coupled with a strong data science driven approach help us dynamically control occupancy and room pricing.”

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Today, the company is present in 170 cities in India and has become one of the fastest-growing tech startups in the country. The company recently welcomed 2016 by launching its first international operations in Malaysia.

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