I am often asked about the tough times when starting out, or a challenge that seemed too difficult to surmount while setting up OYO. I believe that when you are having so much fun, challenges and tough times contribute to the adventure. I started as a college dropout. This gave me a sense of freedom and exhilaration at the possibilities that stretched out in front of me (albeit for a year, as that was the pact I had made with my parents). Being interested in travelling and having to make do with a frugal budget - no fancy star hotels for a student living on pocket money - I got a chance to observe and experience first-hand issues faced by budget travellers who did not have access to reliable, clean accommodation.
Since then - from a single hotel in Gurgaon to the country's largest hospitality company - it has been a journey where we have just hit the first few milestones. I have been fortunate to have mentors and visionaries who helped shape my thinking and set a foundation.
The leadership team is the backbone of any company - and is pretty much the bedrock for a startup founder. Early on at OYO, I was struggling to find like-minded people who understood what I wanted to do and displayed similar commitment to the idea. Putting the right team together became a challenging and frustrating task, which reflected on my self-belief. One mentor advised me to be patient and remain diligent in this search. The right folks would come by, and this would be but a small wrinkle in the larger fabric of the OYO story. Once I found my COO in Abhinav Sinha, a virtuous cycle kicked off into motion. We started attracting talent that was keen to be part of an innovative business that was just starting out. This core team heading operations, sales and finance has acted as a sounding board and able partners to execute OYO's mission. Their insights into finance and operations are especially valuable. Early stage fundraising was also challenging but waiting for the right partners has helped us in the long run.
My experience as a Thiel Fellow has also been pivotal in imparting the understanding of the start-up ecosystem under guidance from the foundation's network of tech entrepreneurs, investors and scientists. Being directly mentored by the legendary Peter Thiel has been invaluable. He taught me to partner with the right people who shared the same values. Above all, he inspired each of us fellows to stay tenacious, never give up and never compromise on our dreams.
My own life and experiences have demonstrated one thing. Challenges are inevitable. What determines success is your attitude towards dealing with them. When you convert it to your advantage, it is easy to see it as an opportunity (mostly in hindsight). Navigating a start-up into a fully functional entity is an exhilarating feeling, nothing short of an adventure. So now when I am faced with a challenge, I look forward to the adventures as I go about transforming an obstacle into an opportunity. To borrow a quote from a legendary founder, it's (always) still Day One!
By Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO, OYO