Ritesh Agarwal | OYO | Crafting Dreams into Reality

Once upon a time in the scenic town of Bissam Cuttack, nestled in the state of Odisha, India, a young boy named Ritesh Agarwal discovered his love for coding at the tender age of eight. Raised in a family of small-time entrepreneurs, he was surrounded by an environment that nurtured curiosity and resilience.


As the years passed, Ritesh’s fascination with technology grew, but so did his entrepreneurial spirit. In his early teens, he embarked on a journey to sell SIM cards in his small Indian town, fueled by the dream of becoming a successful businessman. His family’s modest business in Southern Orissa provided a backdrop of inspiration, but Ritesh yearned for more.


After graduating from St. John’s Senior Secondary School, Ritesh set his sights on the bustling capital of India, Delhi. The high-rise buildings and the plethora of opportunities beckoned him. He enrolled in the University of London’s International Program at the prestigious Indian School of Business and Finance, seeking not just a degree but real-world experience.


However, as fate would have it, Ritesh’s thirst for knowledge and experience led him away from traditional academia. Instead of confining himself to classrooms, he found himself attending events and conferences, rubbing shoulders with successful business owners. It was during these encounters that he made a life-altering decision at the tender age of 17 – he dropped out of college to embark on an entrepreneurial journey.


Ritesh’s first venture, selling SIM cards, was merely the beginning. A passionate traveler, he observed the challenges faced by budget travelers in India, particularly in finding decent and affordable accommodations. In 2011, he launched “Oravel Travels,” modeled after Airbnb, with the aim of providing an online booking system for budget-friendly bed and breakfast joints, private rooms, and serviced apartments across India.



Yet, success did not come easy. Despite securing funding, Ritesh faced a dilemma. He believed in running his company not just as a businessman but as a customer first. To truly understand the challenges, he embarked on a unique journey, checking into a new hotel room every night. It was during this period that he identified the real issue – the lack of service quality in budget accommodations.


As Oravel Travels struggled, Ritesh found himself at a crossroads with only Rs30 in his bank account. Instead of giving up, he decided to give himself another chance. He redefined his business model and applied for the Thiel Fellowship, a two-year program offering a $100,000 grant for young entrepreneurs. Ritesh became the first resident Asian to be selected, gaining the opportunity to learn from Silicon Valley’s best.


In 2013, Oravel Travels was reborn as “OYO (On Your Own) Rooms.” Ritesh’s new model involved collaborating with small, independent hotel owners to enhance the quality of their services. OYO’s popularity surged, and the company joined the coveted “unicorn” club with a valuation exceeding $1 billion.


Ritesh Agarwal’s journey was not just about building a business; it was a narrative of resilience, innovation, and a commitment to customer satisfaction. By 2020, at the age of 27, he became the second-youngest self-made billionaire globally. Beyond business, Ritesh continues to inspire through the Ritesh Agarwal Academy, sharing his wisdom and experiences to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs.


And so, the story of Ritesh Agarwal, the founder of OYO, serves as a beacon of hope for dreamers worldwide – a testament to the extraordinary power of determination and the ability to turn challenges into triumphs.


Company website: www.oyorooms.com


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