India: A nation brimming with ideas

Ritesh Agarwal has created India’s largest network of budget hotels in less than two years. He’s 21.

“I am not being arrogant when I say I re-imagined how new-age hospitality will look like. In just one and a half years we are bigger than the country’s largest hotel group by a factor of four,” Agarwal, the latest poster boy of India’s start-up industry, told CNBC.

Agarwal started out trying to replicate Airbnb in India but soon found that you don’t need to emulate something to be successful.

“The best companies in the world are created from personal pain points,” said Agarwal, sitting with bare feet in OYO Rooms’ bustling office in Gurgaon, an upmarket suburb of New Delhi.

At 17, Agarwal gave up trying to be an engineer. Instead he worked for free at various start-ups and traveled the country. At the end of the journey he got his big idea – he was going to build a credible chain of budget hotels from the existing supply of low-end, unprofessionally run guesthouses that dot India.

Today OYO Rooms partners with 3,000 guest houses across 125 Indian cities. It markets these small hotels online under the OYO brand and works with them to offer basic quality at one-third the market price. Agarwal’s disruptive strategies worked and investors have already poured $125 million into OYO Rooms. He employs more than 1,500 people, with a Harvard alumni as his COO, and has a company valued at an estimated $400 million.



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