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How does a college dropout transform his start-up into a disruptor for the traditional capital-weighed-down hospitality industry?

In 2013, Ritesh Agarwal, now 24, has founded OYO, an online hotel marketplace. OYO’s model is simple: it adopts hotels to bring them into its fold, gets them to adopt certain standards of services, features, staff, pricing, security and then sells their rooms under its own brand, for a certain cut.

In India, there are no standards being followed and the owners are not entirely professionally trained or oriented for the hospitality space. In addition, it’s not easy to get money to improve your hotel. Thus, OYO doesn't own any of their properties, and instead, invests in improving marketing and management quality for the hotels in its fold. It's a win-win situation for OYO and the hotels, many of which just don't have the network, knowledge or the budget for smart marketing.

"The industry offers an opportunity of more than four million hotel and guest-house rooms in India and there’s a white space that exists in the economy segment," said Ritesh Agarwal.

Currently, the company is in the “invest and expand” mode, primarily funding its technology, hiring and marketing development activities and has attracted four rounds of investors including Huazhu Hotel Group, who made a strategic investment of $10 million in September 2017.

“Our primary focus is to strengthen our foothold further in India. We are happy to state that we have reached 100,000 keys and are confident to reach 180,000 keys by this year. In an endeavor to deepen our network and commitment as South Asia’s largest hotel chain, we have expanded into Malaysia, Nepal and China, where we have over 5,500 assets partners,” said an OYO spokesperson.

Within months of launching operations in China, OYO is looking to set up business in Indonesia, the UK and other European countries where it  wishes to expand within the next 12-18 months.

"The past two years have been watershed years for us, both in terms of business as well as expansion. We locked down our growth strategy with a razor-sharp focus on our ‘100% inventory with Exclusive Model’ while building capabilities for on-boarding 10,000 rooms every month. In the past 12 months, we have also introduced first of its kind innovative hotel categories like OYO Home and SilverKey," shared Ritesh Agarwal.

OYO currently has over 5,000 exclusive hotels as a part of its franchised, manachised and leased chain which is spread across 150 cities in India.

"Currently, we have more than 12 hotels on the OYO platform, each consisting of 100+ rooms under our large hotel portfolio."

In late 2017, OYO also launched OYO Home, an Airbnb-like marketplace for short-term managed rentals. In April 2018, the first international OYO Home was launched in Dubai.

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