Image: Amit Verma
Going by the growth numbers of Oyo, the hotel chain which Agarwal founded in May 2013, the 24-year-old is being unduly modest. With his company’s valuation rocketing to around $5 billion from $850 million in less than a year, it seems only a matter of time before the CEO of India’s latest unicorn, with an estimated net worth of over ₹4,400 crore, makes it to the Forbes India Rich List.
From a single hotel in May 2013 to over 12,000-plus hotel partners at present, Oravel Stays Private Limited, the parent company behind Oyo, now manages around 270,000 rooms in more than 350 cities across seven countries. Within a year of its launch there, Oyo’s business in China, a market that is known to be difficult to crack, is already half as big as India’s.
While Oyo began its business on the premise of providing clean, affordable hotels with standardised facilities to ‘budget’ travellers, Agarwal is “investing many years ahead”, propelling his company through diversification across geographies and segments. “We wear affordability as a badge of honour rather than it being something that we are worried about. One of our cultural values is, affordable is cool, cool is affordable. So even if we play in the mid-scale [segment], we will be better valued than any other mid-scale asset,” Agarwal says.
Apart from the low-cost economy rooms that Oyo is famous for, users can now choose from a variety of options such as Townhouse (premium-economy), Home (homestays), SilverKey (executive apartments), Oyo Living (long-term housing rental), Capital O (corporate living spaces), Palette Resorts (upper-end leisure resorts) and Weddingz.in (wedding banquets). Today, nearly 15 percent of Oyo’s revenues come from its non-economy segment.
“If there was a single concern about Oyo’s growth, it would be that since growth has been so aggressively fast it is easy to give up on quality and consistency. This is an area where I would expect them to put more focus on,” says Manav Thadani, founder chairman of hospitality consulting firm, Hotelivate.