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Ritesh Agarwal’s (OYO founder)

Meet Ritesh Agarwal, the founder & CEO of OYO, and one of the youngest billionaires ever. His journey from a small town in Orissa to the helm of a game-changing startup is nothing short of inspiring, even though OYO has faced challenges, especially after the coronavirus pandemic.

Early Days and Love for Coding

Ritesh was born in Bissam Cuttack, Orissa, into a business-class family. His early schooling at Sacred Heart School in Rayagada marked the beginning of an unconventional journey. Even during his school days, Ritesh’s fascination with computers and software set him apart. His interest in programming began at the age of eight, delving into languages like Basic and Pascal.

In 2009, Ritesh left for Kota to pursue studies at IIT. However, realizing Kota wasn’t the right place for coding, he redirected his focus. During this time, he also wrote a successful book on engineering colleges. At 16, he participated in the Asian Science Camp at TIFR in Mumbai, showcasing his early excellence in science.

Entrepreneurial Spirit Unleashed

Ritesh’s entrepreneurial spirit emerged when he moved to Delhi in 2011. Initially intending to prepare for the SAT and study in the US, fate had a different plan. His curiosity led him to explore entrepreneurship, particularly the model of Airbnb. Recognizing a gap in the budget hotel sector, he launched his first venture, Oravel Stays, in 2012.

Despite initial funding and efforts, Oravel struggled. Undeterred, Ritesh pivoted the business, identifying a common traveler’s pain point – finding good, affordable, and available hotels. In 2013, he rebranded as “OYO Rooms,” aiming to create India’s largest chain of standardized budget rooms.

OYO’s Rise to Prominence

OYO Rooms gained momentum, securing funding and expanding rapidly. The business model involved partnering with hotels, auditing them to meet OYO standards, and offering standardized, budget-friendly rooms. By 2014, OYO Rooms had raised Rs. 4 Cr in funding and was clocking over Rs. 1 Cr in gross bookings per month.

The company’s growth was substantial, reaching 350+ hotels and 4000+ rooms across 20 cities by 2015. The OYO Rooms mobile app garnered widespread acclaim, with over 160,000 downloads and a place among the best-rated travel apps.

Recent funding rounds, including $25 Million from Lightspeed, Sequoia, and others, reflected OYO’s continued success. Ritesh’s vision had turned OYO into India’s first technology-driven network of standardized budget hotels.

Facing Challenges and the Road Ahead

OYO faced challenges post-COVID-19 pandemic, and controversies added to the hurdles. Despite this, Ritesh Agarwal’s journey from a small-town coder to the CEO of a unicorn startup stands as a testament to determination, adaptability, and entrepreneurial spirit. OYO continues to evolve under his leadership, shaping the future of affordable and standardized accommodation in India.

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