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Dreaming Big: Ritesh Agarwal's Formula To An Impactful Life with OYO Rooms


"If you have not failed, you have not hardened yourself!"

Ritesh Agarwal's story begins with the desire of a single young individual to live a more impactful life.

But what is the price for such a life?

Devotion, focus, and most of all, a good idea!

Through ups and downs, big milestones and sometimes even bigger failures, the story of Ritesh takes us on a journey that shows the significance of persistence and how it can lead to success beyond comprehension.

A Boy, A Dream, A Mission

Born in Bissam Cuttack, India, Ritesh Agrawal was never an ordinary boy - although at a first glance people would think just that. He indulged in typical social activities with his local friends, sure, but he was someone who dreamed of a bigger and impactful life

He came from a simple and humble family who owned a small shop in Southern Orissa. His family's lifestyle made Ritesh privileged enough to own a computer, which quickly became his window to the world beyond his small town.

Ritesh would spend hours on the computer exploring and grasping every bit of knowledge that he could, but the one thing he was most interested about was software. Ritesh didn't stop at it being just an interest, he wanted to know more - so he borrowed some books on coding and used Google as his only teacher of the tech universe.

Around the same time, he learned the word 'entrepreneur', and what it meant.

For the young dreamer, it was revolutionary that there are people in the real world who solve problems and make vast profits out of it. That's when his dreams became more vivid - when he realized they could be so much more!

His dreams became his mission, and the path was set.

The Journey To The Dream

In 2010, during his senior year, Ritesh felt the need to do something different. So unlike the rest of his peers, he moved to the Northern part of India where he would finish his studies. Still keen on the idea of entrepreneurship and the power to make a change, he stumbled upon a problem that became the foundation for his success.

Ritesh realized that all across his country there aren't favorable conditions in hotel rooms and other hospitality services for the common man. Swiftly, this became the problem that he himself wanted to solve.

From the beginning of his journey he was using all of his pocket money to travel across numerous parts of India and stay at different hotels. Ritesh would contact the places where he was supposed to stay in, explaining that he's doing all that traveling to gather enough insights to one day solve a problem that he believed the country had.

Some of the hotel owners would let him stay for free, some would give him discounts, but most of them didn't care and he had to go through the whole process the hard way.

One of the early lessons he learned was that entrepreneurs are optimists and that everyone constantly has opportunities surrounding them, but it's up to the individual to decide whether he'll take advantage of them.

He did exactly that!

At the age of 18, he started Oravel and it seemed like his mission was coming to fruition.

Oravel And The Start Of The Bigger Picture

At 18 years old, Ritesh had given all his focus on Oravel - a platform for short and midterm rentals for bed and breakfast joints, private rooms and serviced apartments.

Fulfilling his parents' dream, he enrolled in The Indian School of Business and Finance in 2011. Two days later, he decided to drop out and fully focus on building Oravel, as his idea was highly acclaimed and received funding from the VentureNursery. While this was only a small milestone compared to what was yet to follow, it was the first big commitment - and Ritesh' first step into the world of business!

In 2013, Ritesh applied for the Thiel Fellowship - a program created by Peter Thiel, the co-founder of Paypal, intended to help drop-out students under the age of 23 through guidance and financial resources.

Ritesh became the first Asian resident to become part of the Thiel Fellowship - an accomplishment that broke the glass ceiling for others that came after him and a crucial step for the later success of his business.

The Bumpy Road

During his time in the program, Ritesh learned many things that became the new foundation of who he was as an entrepreneur. The most significant lesson he learned was that the ability to dream big is the most important attribute of building a large and impactful company.

The Thiel Fellowship invested $100,000 in Oravel, which to Ritesh seemed like a turning point for his business - one that was going to elevate it to a higher level. He kept on dreaming big, never stopping his ever-more devoted efforts to his start-up.

Nevertheless, as it usually goes with these journeys, the road got bumpy.

Even after numerous efforts, Oravel struggled with liquidity and getting substantial transactions, leading Manish Shina, the co-founder hired by Ritesh, to quit - leaving the young entrepreneur alone in the lows of his business.

Ritesh could've given up. He could've done what many aspiring entrepreneurs do after experiencing multiple failures and gotten back to the life that his parents planned out for him. Luckily, he also learned the significance of hard times - and how they make great things happen!

OYO Rooms - A New Chapter Of The Journey

The troubles of Oravel didn't scar Ritesh' bright mind. In his own words - "As an entrepreneur you're wired for being optimistic, as, if there's a 5% chance, you'll have to take that chance".

So, he got back to the problem that started his journey.

He knew people wanted to be able to travel to India's many beautiful and affordable places, but they needed to find affordable places to stay, where all their needs would be met. He would solve this problem.

Sounds simple, right?

Ritesh thought so too, although he was puzzled about how no one took this opportunity to their advantage. But he saw a chance and he seized it, relaunching his business model at the end of 2013, this time under the name OYO Rooms.

The mission was the same - create affordable yet practical living spaces for the common man in India.

So, the team started visiting different hotels and conducting audits. These audits were meant to help them understand the necessary changes they had to go through before becoming part of the OYO chain. Ritesh always remembered to dream big and continuously worked to achieve his mission, which is how OYO Rooms got connected to dozens of hotels - in their research phase!

All of this led to him raising $25 million for the hotel platform budget by 2014.

OYO Rooms And The Continuous Success of Ritesh Agarwal

Today, OYO Rooms is spread across 80 countries and 500 cities with their homes, hotels, living and coworking spaces up for grabs. With 2,500 employees making sure the mission of the company is on track, Ritesh is sky-rocketing into further success.

Throughout the years, they've built a multi-brand approach and developed numerous products and services:

  • OYO Vacation Home
  • OYO Townhouse
  • Collection O
  • OYO Home
  • SilverKey
  • Capitol O
  • YO Help
  • Palette

There are more than 300,000 daily users of these services and products as of 2020.

Hard work, consistency and innovation are just a few elements that make OYO Rooms a hospitality business worth $10 billion, and Ritesh the second youngest self-made billionaire!

This success story is noteworthy for many reasons. The most important one being the fact that Ritesh has become an example for young dreamers from places that are unlikely to produce highly accomplished entrepreneurs, proving all it takes is an idea and the unconditional desire to change the world!

The story of Ritesh Agarwal shows us that there is always a way to turn dreams into a reality - no matter the circumstances or barriers.