This college dropout turned a bad travel experience into a billion-dollar idea
Ritesh Agarwal is a college dropout in a country where university degrees are prized. Yet he started his own hotel aggregate OYO Rooms before the age of 20 and became a millionaire before 22. Today, at 24-years-old, he owns India’s largest hospitality company. It’s worth $5 billion, and it’s growing.
A better experience
If you’ve gone on vacation in the last few years, you’ve likely used a hotel comparison website like Expedia or Orbitz. And you likely know that the process can be a nightmare. Sometimes, what looks like an amazing location online turns out to be a bedbug-infested room that stinks of old cigarettes. Agarwal wanted to create a better system.
A billion-dollar idea
Ritesh got inspired while traveling India as a teenager–and staying in some truly horrible guesthouses. His idea? Create a booking site that doesn’t just list a bunch of hotels, but makes sure those establishments are of a certain quality. In 2013, he received a $100,000 fellowship from Peter Thiel, allowing him to invest in that vision.
Agrawal’s franchise model includes a full stack of services that allow small hoteliers to up their game–by signing on, they agree to share 25% of their profits in exchange for a full makeover. Today, there are more than 10,000 locations across 160 different Indian cities and recently started service in China and the U.K.
The Oyo makeover takes about a month, but hoteliers must agree if they want to take part. Once complete, they receive a listing on the Oyo website and bright red sign that signals “quality”. Agarwal ensures excellence by employing hundreds of people who go out and inspect the properties, checking for things such as mattress quality and working air conditioners.
Ritesh says the number of transactions on his site has tripled in the last year, and 90% of that came from repeat travelers. And he’s never spent a dime on advertising. He plans on continuing to grow his business, and it looks like there’s not stopping him. Expect to see an Oyo hotel in your neighborhood soon, as this young star continues to rise.