Entrepreneur Spotlight: Ritesh Agarwal
“We don’t need no education” – Pink Floyd sang in their iconic song Another Brick in The Wall. Whether a college education is essential or not is perhaps something that can be debated till the cows come home. However, there have been several successful entrepreneurs who have gone on to prove that a college degree may have nothing to do with building a successful business. Ritesh Agarwal, world’s youngest self made billionaire, is a dropout which made him eligible for the Peter Thiel fellowship for $100,000. He was motivated to start OYO Rooms so that he could be in control of the TV remote, which wasn’t possible when he stayed with relatives when he was a child.
“One big learning from Thiel fellowship was to think really big and create an impact,
without thinking if anybody has done it before”
Ritesh Agarwal was born to a middle-class Marwari family residing in the state of Orissa. Born on the 16th of November, 1993, he was brought up in Bisam in Cuttack, Orissa.
Ritesh dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur since he first learned about it from his sister. His family always supported him to become what he is today and always trusted him with every decision he made.
At first, he began with a website, designed to enable listing and booking of budget accommodation named ‘ORAVEL’.
To pursue his passion of becoming an entrepreneur, he enrolled into Indian School of Business & Finance, Delhi. But later he had to leave the college mid-way to start his own venture.
The year he launched Oravel travels, he was nominated for the Thiel fellowship at the end of 2013. The fellowship was designed by Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal. This provided the college drop-out, less than 22 years of age, a sum of $100,000 to pursue his start-up dream. Needless to say, he has been the sole resident Asian to have won a Thiel fellowship.
A mere 19-year-old by now, had travelled for months staying at budget hotels. Attending customer calls every day and immersing himself in every possible experience, he learnt about budget hotel customers and their expectations.
Being an avid traveller, he soon realized that the budget hospitality sector lacked predictability. Rooms with the key proposition of offering affordable and standardized accommodation needed to be addressed.
Peaks and Valleys
Ritesh’s journey from Oravel to OYO had a dead luck with failure in 2 companies.
“The reality of a startup is you have failures very often”
But to his hard luck, the business modern didn’t seem to be picking up as much as he tried to fix things.
Ritesh went into a thinking spiral and realised that the biggest concern while travelling was to find a good, affordable hotel to stay in. However, landing in a crummy place with equally trashy stuff and food with bad washrooms and bedding was what a common event.
“You must be willing to stretch out of your comfort zone, take risks and be emotional
about your ventures and the stakeholders involved”
Despite many hurdles, he did not give up. With a motivated vibe, he went on to create an online yet social community. The objective was to bring information about all good places together at one platform.
And as a last stress site, Ritesh finally tweeted about the new business model. In 2013, he relaunched Oravel as OYO Rooms. The name OYO means “On Your Own”, which is an exemplary idea to create India’s largest chain of efficient, young and standardized budget rooms.
Well, it is all the brainchild of this young entrepreneur with the OYO vision, Ritesh Agarwal. He has always been successful enough having several accolades to his credit.
OYO was launched in 2013 in India, but has rapidly expanded to the UK,middle east, China, southeast asia, US. Recently, the hospitality sector giant has expanded itself to the mainland Europe.
Ritesh’s accomplishments are a testimony of his strenuous work, dedication, and passion.
“Don’t worry about being successful but toward being significant and the success will naturally follow.”
The Incredible Expansion
OYO Rooms raised $1 billion in September 2018. Again,within a year in July 2019 Ritesh Agarwal went on to buy $2 billion shares in the company, which tripled his shares. Year 2020 has recorded Agarwal’s net worth at around INR 7253 crore which is $1.1 billion dollars as per the Hurun Rich List 2020. This, of course, has made him the world’s youngest self made billionaire.
He was also one of the world’s youngest CEOs at 17. He was awarded with BusinessWorld Young Entrepreneur Award and named one of the Top 50 Entrepreneurs by TATA First Dot Awards (2013).
Ritesh Agarwal’s book – A complete Encyclopaedia of top 100 engineering colleges turned out to be a bestseller. He had written this book at a young age. Agarwal started coding at the tender age of 8. He also loves travelling and going for long drives to unwind himself and likes playing basketball when he is not working.
Currently valued at $10 billion, Ritesh-led OYO has expanded to over 800 cities in over 80 countries.
“I am yet to hear of an entrepreneur who can claim to have succeeded without making mistakes.”
The Learning and Unlearning Continues
Being a young, up and coming entrepreneur has always been a tough road and continues to be. But think about the entrepreneurs out there who are starting businesses at the ripe age of 50 or older! According to the New York Times, more and more old timers are finding ways to start the business they want to. Gladly, they are having success doing it and hence there is no age for success.
Moreover, people compare the performances of different people to evaluate their success. But success is not something to be copied from others. You have to carve out your own path to achieve success. Successful people never wait for an applause or an acknowledgement of their work as they get it eventually.
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