» Getahead » 'The journey of an entrepreneur is very, very, scary'

'The journey of an entrepreneur is very, very, scary'

By Prasanna D Zore and Sanjay Sawant
February 15, 2016 12:02 IST
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Ritesh Agarwal, founder, OyO Rooms'You go through ups and downs almost everyday. If you do this for money, you will never be able to do this.'

How many 22 year olds gets the ears and eyes of Yogi Deveshwar, Kumarmangalam Birla, Shashi Ruia, T V Narendran and Naveen Patnaik?

But then this is Ritesh Agarwal, founder, OYO Rooms, India's best-known 22-year-old businessman!

Ritesh Agarwal, founder, OyO Rooms

Ritesh Agarwal, who co-founded OYO Rooms, the company that networks budget hotels, has been asked by the Odisha government to spearhead and outline the state's start up policy.

Odisha Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi calls Ritesh the "poster boy of Start Ups."

Prasanna D Zore/ got the 22 year old chatting even as he got non-stop requests from youngsters for a selfie with him.

Ritesh Agarwal (extreme left), founder, OYO Rooms, speaks about his vision for Odisha's start ups as T V Narendran (third), Managing Director, Tata Steel, Y C Deveshwar (fifth), Chairman, ITC, Naveen Patnaik, Odisha chief minister (centre), Bibek Debroy, economist and member, NITI Aayog, Kumarmangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group, Shashi Ruia of Essar Group listen to his speech.

Ritesh Agarwal, extreme left, founder, OYO Rooms, speaks about his vision for Odisha's start ups.
Listening to him are as T V Narendran, third from left, Managing Director, Tata Steel; Yogi C Deveshwar, fifth from left, Chairman, ITC; Naveen Patnaik, Odisha chief minister, centre; Dr Bibek Debroy, economist and member, NITI Aayog; Kumarmangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Vikram Birla Group; Shashi Ruia, Chairman, Essar Group.
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/

All eyes were on you when you spoke. What were your feelings at that time?

It was a very humbling feeling given that at this point in time we are a very young company and we have a long way to go; many more years of business and sustainability to be shown. So, it was a very humbling experience.

But given that you are so determined to make this happen and you see so many expectations from you it brings a sense of further responsibility in you, which can work both ways.

I hope this will work in a positive direction for the company and I am very excited to build what we are building now.

What role will you play in shaping Odisha's Start Up Policy?

My job has been of creating a company from scratch. I get to see many more entrepreneurs around me. I have spent almost 70 per cent of my life in Odisha.

I come from a small town, Bissamcuttack in south Odisha.

As a combination of all these I possibly feel I can give back by articulating the problems we face and what are the potential solutions to these problems.

I don't understand the government machinery very well. So my belief is by sharing real world problems and their (the state government) ability to put the administrative machinery together we will be able to create a very strong partnership to get thousands of new entrepreneurs come out of Odisha in the coming decade.

What will be your top three priorities in this role?

The first big priority would be to make sure that first generation entrepreneurs are encouraged (by the government) against them seeking business houses as of now (for funding).

The second one is to make sure how we give exposure, support and infrastructure facilities for start ups to bloom in Odisha.

While the first two are objective, the third one is a bit subjective and it is making entrepreneurship as a career that families would want their children to go out and pursue.

The first two things can be done way more easily, but if families don't support and discourage them from starting up, then it would be very tough to get the ball rolling not only in Odisha but across the country.

What made the Odisha government come to a 22-year-old entrepreneur and give him such a task?

It may be because we have been very focused on building a company which in just two years has created something that is bigger than what companies which have existed for centuries in this sector have done.

At the same time, even after achieving scale, it was humbling for us to do this, given that we as a company are still very, very, young.

We are excited to be able to make everything happen to be able to prove that we are worth and value to entrepreneurship in Odisha.

What's your success mantra?

We have been very focused in solving a problem.

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