Ritesh Agarwal, the founder and CEO of OYO Rooms, a network of budget hotels and accommodation options, is a textbook example of lack of formal education being no prerequisite for big success. A few years ago, he used to sell SIM cards in a small town in Odisha. Today, one of the world’s biggest investors, Masayoshi Son of Softbank, wants to partner with him to help OYO Rooms with its foray into China.Agarwal, the 23-year-old entrepreneur, who became a dollar millionaire at 22 soon after completing his school education, has drawn effusive praise from Son. “I would really like to introduce this company to all of you. The founder, as of today, is only 24 years old. He founded the company when he was only 19 years old. Only four years have passed but it is growing exponentially,” Son said at the Tokyo-headquartered strategic holding company’s 38th annual general meeting on Wednesday.
He comes from Bissamcuttack, a small town south of Odisha, a region known to teem with Naxalite activity. He is a dropout, which made him eligible for the Peter Thiel fellowship for $100,000. He was motivated to start OYO Rooms so that he could be in control of the TV remote, which wasn’t possible when he stayed with relatives when he was a child.
“You know what OYO’s abbreviated form is? ‘OnYour Own’,” Agarwal said in an interview to ET in 2015. “And it was because I couldn’t have the remote control at relatives’ homes (that I thought of starting OYO Rooms). The relatives would want to watch soap operas and I wanted to watch Cartoon Network.”
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