Ritesh Agarwal – Dropout to Billionaire

 Ritesh Agarwal – Dropout to Billionaire

OYO – I am sure as soon as you hear this word, Traveling and Hotels is what comes to your mind, but did you know the long form of this abbreviation? OYO – On your Own!! Surprisingly many people are aware of the concept of OYO, but not the abbreviation. The concept of this startup is extremely interesting and so is the story of its founder. In today’s edition, we’ll unravel the story of Ritesh Agarwal, one of the youngest self-made billionaires.

Ritesh Agarwal, the founder, and CEO of OYO Rooms, a network of budget hotels and accommodation options, is an example of lack of formal education being no barrier for big success. Agarwal comes from Bissamcuttack, a small town south of Odisha, a region known to teem with Naxalite activity. At the age of 13, he started selling SIM cards to support his family. He graduated from St. John’s Senior Secondary School and moved to Delhi for college in 2011, with strong intentions of starting up something of his own. He was a talented kid since school and was inclined towards coding and entrepreneurship in his teenage years. 

In India, it is often believed that getting a master’s degree is very crucial to have a career in entrepreneurship. On the same lines, Ritesh joined a B-School, the Indian School of Business in Delhi with a similar mindset. However, after a year into the course, he realized that the B-School was taking up a lot of time and took an informed decision of dropping out and focusing full time on his entrepreneurial dreams. This was one of the very difficult and norm-breaking decisions by Agarwal. He gave his soul and heart to his dreams and participated in the Thiel Fellowship Program. This was the program set up by PayPal Founder – Peter Theil for college dropouts to explore their ideas and invest into young minds and business’ Ritesh was the winner of the Thiel Fellowship program 2013, a 2-year program initiated by Peter Theil, PayPal Founder and an early investor in Facebook. Ritesh received a grant of $100,000. He was the first Asian to have obtained Thiel Fellowship. This scholarship was certainly one major stepping stone in the success of this young entrepreneur. He learned,

“One big learning from the Thiel fellowship was to think really big and create an impact, without thinking if anybody has done it before,”

Since Ritesh used to travel a lot, amid his trips, he stayed in different hotels. This gave him a realization about the poor hospitality facilities he got at different places. He wanted an accommodation system where people can get the best rooms, food, staff, and other services in a given budget. And as we already know, Necessity is the mother of all inventions, he created Oravel Stays in 2011, an aggregator of breakfast and bed stays, inspired by Airbnb’s model. This directory of affordable hotels helped travelers to find pocket-friendly hotels but it failed to serve the purpose for which Ritesh started this company.

He realized that to solve this problem, he needs to have in-depth research about hospitality services. He traveled across India, visited almost hundreds of hotels, and concluded that the major problems in the hospitality industry are non-standard service and unpredictability so he decided to solve these problems with the help of OYO.

Agarwal was so invested in his business, that in the inception phase, he wore various other caps at once. He performed housekeeping, sales, headed the team as CEO, and whatnot. He even used to get tipped by customers and always got a chance for close interaction with customers to know their user experience and needs. Started from the bottom of the ladder to get an on-job experience along with knowing the needs of customers at the same time. Agarwal’s early hands-on experience in the hotel business gave him deep insights into what he had to do to be successful in that line.

This startup started gaining success and was the talk of the town in no time. At just 19 years of age, the OYO Rooms founder was among the youngest within his sphere. Soon after its launch, Ritesh Agarwal brought Bhawna Agarwal, former CEO of SeventyMM, onboard, as a business advisor. They strategically led the company to tie up with several hotels to offer rooms to the customers. Their strategy worked and the team of two later got increased to fifteen and then twenty-five and so on.

Through its partnership with SoftBank, under the leadership of Ritesh Agarwal, OYO Rooms increased its presence beyond borders as well. Today, it not only operates in India but globally as well with thousands of hotels and vacation homes in Malaysia, UAE, Nepal, China, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, USA, and more.

This young man is not just an entrepreneur but also an author. He even wrote a book and ended up inscribing – ‘Indian Engineering Colleges: A Complete Encyclopedia of Top 100 Engineering Colleges’. This book turned out to become a huge success on an online platform and was sold out in a while too.

It is a clear example that a college degree or age are just a few norms set by society for being an entrepreneur. Ritesh has proved to the world that age or your qualification should not stop you from being an entree. A strong determination and dedication are all you need to cross boundaries and gain success across different verticals. Ritesh Agarwal is a truly inspirational story for every Indian kid who wants to achieve something great in their life. His unique thinking and ability to solve problems made him the youngest billionaire in India

Ritesh Agarwal has been named the youngest Indian in the rich list with a net worth of $1.1 billion (Rs 7,800 crore) according to Hurun Global Rich List 2020. Interestingly, his net worth has increased by Rs 300 crore since last year. During the tough times of this pandemic, OYO also declared 4-days working a week along with unlimited leaves without any explanation, thereby demonstrating a good work culture and strong leadership by Ritesh.

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We manifest the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem for enthusiastic entrepreneurs by helping them build their entrepreneurial skills and encouraging them in job creation rather than finding ones. These episodes aim to provide much-needed guidance & motivation among the youth and bridge the knowledge gap.

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