‘I personally don’t like to call myself a shark, I am more like a dolphin’: Ritesh Agarwal CEO of OYO Rooms

Ritesh Agarwal of Shark Tank India 3 discusses his experience with OYO Rooms as well as his status as a newcomer to the show’s third season.

As Shark Tank India Season 3 continues to gain popularity among viewers, the sharks have their moments on the show. The new sharks arriving this season have received a lot of attention.

While Deepinder Goyal has received praise for his laser-sharp attention, Ritesh Agarwal has been praised for his friendly demeanour on the show.

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Recently, in an interview with Indian Express, Ritesh, the CEO of OYO Rooms, highlighted not just his success story with OYO but also how he didn’t relate to the term shark.

Talking about how his success story with OYO began, Ritesh shared, “I was just 18, right out of high school, when I was starting. So naturally, people did not take me seriously at first. They thought a young person was very interested in trying to make a positive difference, but they were not sure if I would be able to do it. Back in the day, when I wrote cold emails, nobody would respond or was not willing to invest. I finally got a big investor in 2015. Before that, in June 2013, I started with one hotel in Gurgaon. It had 20 percent occupancy before OYO came about, but in a few months, the occupancy grew to 80 to 90 percent. That was the starting point. Today, we serve 17,000 hotels and 1,50,000 homes, so it has grown. Over the years, I have learned that consistency matters. I did not give up, and slowly more critics started becoming believers.”

Ritesh Agarwal is from South Orissa and was preparing for his engineering degree, but he was also a lad who enjoyed travelling, and one such event inspired the formation of his company.

When asked if he hoped for a platform like Shark Tank India back then, he replied, “I wish there was something like Shark Tank back when I started. Some people may see Shark Tank as a show for founders and sharks to meet and get an investment. But I think the show makes a bigger difference than this. A growing number of people now see entrepreneurship as a legitimate opportunity. People are learning how to become founders in their living rooms. Risk-taking is encouraged and that can make India a developed economy.”

Ritesh also shared his approach as a’shark’ and explained, “I personally don’t like to call myself a shark. I am more like a dolphin, probably. When I was coming to the show, my motivation was very simple: I wanted to support founders. This has been my goal, and Shark Tank has not disappointed me. Great ideas are valuable, but more than that, it is the founder and person behind the company that matter. I believe the jockey is more important than the horse.”

With today’s precarious business landscape, Ritesh even shared some advice for entrepreneurs looking to break even.

He stated, “In the startup ecosystem, companies that were on EBITDA losses are trying to become profitable. Our own company is having its maiden year of profitability this year. Firstly, focus is the name of the game, so prioritising is important. Secondly, ensure you innovate as much as possible. Thirdly, try and make sure to be as close to your customers as possible. Entrepreneurship is an endless race, but the Indian economy is one of the few bright markets around the world. You can build a start-up in India.”