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Meet OYO Rooms, a startup committed to provide amazing hotel stay experience to travellers

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On a mission to change the way people stay away from home, OYO Rooms has caught the fancy of travellers in more than 173 cities of India. OYO Rooms has disrupted the hotel industry by bringing 4500+ non-branded hotels under a brand name and is offering amazing hotel stay experience to travellers at an affordable price.

OYO Rooms is India’s largest network of hotels offering standardised stay experiences at an unmatched price. Currently in 173 cities and still expanding without even a slight hint of slowing down, check out these facts about this successful startup and read through their story.

OYO Rooms: Startup Facts

Startup Vertical : Hotel Bookings.
Founder and CEO : Ritesh Agarwal
Funding Received : $125.65M (Till Feb 2016)
Headquarters : Gurgaon, Haryana, India
OYO Rooms Tagline : India’s Largest Branded Network of Hotels

Number of Hotels under OYO Rooms: 4500+

We talked about the innovation and idea present behind OYO Rooms with its young founder ‘Ritesh Agarwal’. Here’s all that he said.

About OYO Rooms

Q) Starting a marketplace platform for hotel industry is definitely a great idea. Tell us a little about OYO Rooms and your personal motivation for starting this marketplace?

At 17, I travelled extensively across India while researching a business idea. I stayed in more than 150 hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfasts and realized there was no set standard of service and quality at non-branded hotels. The experience of travelers could range from good to average or even unsatisfactory. They could end up landing at hotels with unhygienic rooms and washrooms, rude and unsympathetic staff or lacking comfort and security. All these factors caused trust deficiency in customers. With OYO Rooms, I wanted to standardize hotel experiences to bring predictability in the experience of customers along with affordability and accessibility.

Q) Can you give us a rundown of how it works?

Every property that wants to be a part of OYO’s network is first thoroughly audited. There is a 150-point checklist they have to adhere to for transforming into an OYO. Daily operations at these hotels are monitored by on-ground operations managers. OYO’s aim while partnering with these hotels is to ensure that our customers receive an experience that is homogenous and standardized across OYO properties. We enable our partners with industry-leading tech apps to deliver a seamless customer experience. Customer feedback is very important for us and our apps help us keep track of feedback, concerns and grievances as arise. The apps sync this with the central system – this allows us to expedite redressal and also track the performance of a property or partners.
Q) What is the value proposition you are offering to customers?

Ritesh Agarwal_OYO RoomsOYO Rooms promises a standardized and delightful customer experience across properties. Upon checking into an OYO Room, customers get access to free wifi, TV, complimentary breakfast, hygienic washrooms and 24-hour customer support.

We use technology to make the booking and on-stay experience seamless. Customers can book a room in less than five seconds through our app. Once they have checked-in, they can use the same app to order room service, look for nearby restaurants and even book a cab.

OYO Rooms Marketing & Branding

Q)You are present in 165 cities across India. Do you plan to launch services in new regions? If yes, what would be your strategy?

OYO Rooms has its presence in more than 165 Indian cities with 40,000 rooms in 4,000 hotels. Our expertise and leadership in a market as large as diverse as India has helped us gather valuable learnings. We recently started operations in Malaysia. We look forward to serving international markets where unbranded hotel supply continues to be fragmented and under-serviced.

Q) How did you go about getting so many hotels (basic and premium ones) on your platform?

During OYO’s initial days it was difficult to get hotels on board as the model was absolutely unique and never been tried before. As soon as the hotelier started noticing a fall in operational cost of the properties and increase in the level of occupancy, the acceptance factor came in. Hotels that are a part of the network receive invaluable access to our technology and our well-established sales and marketing channels.

Q) What are your future plans? Are you planning to integrate more features in the service?

We want to become the most trusted and loved hotel brand in the world.

Q) What is OYO Room’s biggest achievement to date? How did you go about accomplishing this?

Among our biggest achievement is making a tech-enabled solution work for a sector known for its legacy IT systems. We disrupted this sector and pioneered a new business model. We have a strong focus on innovation and commitment towards solving customer-issues related to predictability, affordability and availability. The credit for our success goes to the team, that has worked very hard in enabling and delivering these solutions to our partners and customers.

OYO Rooms Future Plans

Q) Where do you see OYO Rooms in five years?

I want us to disrupt other segments, and I also want OYO Rooms to become the de-facto option for anyone who needs a place to stay when away from home.

Q) Any advice for startups trying to make it big as a marketplace model?

I recommend that entrepreneurs research well before taking the plunge. Your idea or model should actually help customers in solving a problem that they face. Step into the customer’s shoes to understand their needs and identify the best solution. Only then will you be able to make a way into their lives, minds and hearts.

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4 Key Issues Facing Sharing Economy in Developing Nations (Published on Crowdsourcing Week)

Juggernaut recently got featured on Crowdsourcing Week Blog, a global stage for innovators to present collaborative solutions. Being the strong advocate of the growth of Sharing Economy, I highlighted four key issues that are being faced by peer-to-peer economy in emerging nations. They are ‘Finding a Recourse to the Hyper Consumerist culture; Rebuilding a lost Sense of Community – Overcoming Informational Barriers; Empowerment; and Trust/Review Layer’.

4 Key Issues Facing Sharing Economy in Developing Nations

Governments and companies around the world, are trying to influence consumer decisions, but in the recent years there are some economic and social trends that are aiming at providing alternative and sustainable means of consumption. These disruptive trends have the potential to challenge the hyper consumerist mentality, and sharing economy stands at the centre of these trends. It aims at trying to counter the notion of underutilized assets that are a consequence of this hyper consumerist culture.

In the US, this trend has been around for a long time, but it gathered force after the 2009 economic recession. The trend has primarily been triggered by decreasing household incomes, the penetration of technology in our daily lives, and the growing demand of sustainable resources and lifestyles. But the question remains, whether or not this trend will be able to transform the traditional consumers in emerging markets?

Before we dive into what key issues face sharing economy in developing nations, let us take a moment and reflect on what does sharing economy mean to us. Named as one of TIME Magazine’s 10 ideas that will change the world (2011 edition), this infographic is a neat rendition of what-why-who-where & when of sharing economy. Let’s analyze some of the reasons that showcase the future potential of sharing economy platforms in developing nations. I will go ahead and take the Indian example wherever necessary to represent developing nations as a whole.

1) Finding a Recourse to the Hyper Consumerist culture

In the list of reasons why embracing Sharing economy should be a no brainer in developing nations, most often quoted is the fact that it can help avoid a lot of mistakes viz. a viz., consumerism that have been made by developed countries. Recession of 2008 was a reality check for world’s economy and forced people to find new ways of adapting.

In the context of developed countries two trends that are emerging as a result of this reconfiguration are –

  1. Access to assets is becoming more important than ownership
  2. Consumers are no longer sharing goods but also time, space and skills.

Things have started to move in developing nations as well in this direction. Fact that building blocks like mobilisation of technology and interconnectivity making it easier to directly connect buyers and sellers are beginning to take shape implies that the platforms enabling sharing economy will soon start manifesting. Once that happens, results will be powerful.

If groups start buying goods instead of individuals, I can conceive a situation where we will be able to limit the number of cars, number of office spaces, number of hotels, number of dresses and so on to today’s numbers while still satisfying the consumerist needs of growing middle class population in developing nations.

2) Rebuilding a lost Sense of Community – Overcoming Informational Barriers

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, had recently talked about how cities are moving towards villages in an article in the atlantic. He talked about how, at the most macro level, we are moving from cities towards communities. This is a move back to the times before the industrial revolution, where people lived in self sustaining communities, and sharing was prevalent. One might try and argue, that cities are growing larger and that the time of the mass produced metropolis is far from over. But as Brian had pointed out, that this sense of community is at the most macroscopic level.

A group of individuals who are connected with one another at some level, and are able to trust one another could be thought of as a community. Over the years, the concept of a community has varied from a village, to some institution, and sometimes, for some, to even a country.

Technology enables trust between individuals in new ways over the internet. People are actually building trust online to have exchanges offline. This trust barrier gets lowered as people get familiarised with the services, and begin using it regularly. These connections that can easily be made online, using the sharing economy, can help in building a community that is not restricted by location, race, or gender. This is what Brian Chesky meant, about creating a community at the most macroscopic level. It is the sharing economy that will help us rebuild a lost sense of community, and move on from the notion of hyper consumerism.

The village economy is in turn also characterised by informational transparency. Informational transparency is a powerful concept and even more so in developing nations which are plagued with dysfunctional governance institutions run by middlemen preying on absence of direct relationship between buyers and sellers. The rise of structured marketplaces built around trust networks for maids, construction labourers, home service providers, etc. is eliminating middlemen empowering buyers and sellers alike.

3) Empowerment

Lot of evidence points to the fact that sharing economy is leading to micro-entrepreneurship. Media has named this growing trend “a gig economy” or “freelance economy”.

A Sherpa TNC Survey done a while back established that 78% of the workers quoted subsidizing passion careers or supplementing their income in the wake of limited alternatives as a reason for becoming part time drivers for the ride sharing companies. In another study commissioned by AirBnB centered around discovering the economic impacts on NYC community it was found out that 50% of their hosts were non-traditional workers some supporting themselves while freelancing and some trying to launch their new business.

Jamie Wong in this detailed analysis on the The Rise of The Micro Entrepreneurship Economy points out that micro-entrepreneurship is appealing because it provides, flexibility, allows you to follow your heart, spurs creativity, enriches you and allows you to make more money. This is in line with the analysis above.

Now, lets try to predict what happens when we extend this analysis to developing nations. Gig life becomes even more potent, since students or homemakers in developing nations don’t have the option of going to the countless Subway’s, McDonald’s Taco Bell to earn the $8-10 shifts. True, we will see some entrepreneurs supporting themselves and subsidising their passionate careers with this supplemental income, but what I would like you to focus on are countless other opportunities that are not available in developed countries. As Rachel Botsman says, collaborative consumption empowers individuals to tap into skills and talents that they have, but haven’t found opportunities to earn from them till now.

Consider the home makers in India – I can conceive a meal delivery marketplace where housewives in every 10th household will be happy to cook some extra meals for bachelors/students in the area. Writing in Forbes earlier this week, Adam Ozimek, pointed out that the trust/review layer is a key differentiator for evolution of sharing economy in developing nations, for it has the potential to replace the much needed authority/trust that must be sourced from institutional authority, a key ingredient essential for self-sufficiency of circular economy.

Which brings us back to the proposition, that the rise of these food, beauty or hospitality entrepreneurs is inevitable, and when it does, its going to have a much more profound impact on the economies of developing nations than its currently having in developed countries.

All the logical conclusions drawn above make sharing economy a no brainer for developing nations. It bodes well to end this post with discussing what is the biggest impediment/obstacle for these platforms to attain liquidity.

4) Trust/Review Layer

The Sharing Economy, in its current version, is incompatible in developing countries like India.

In its current form, each model of the Sharing Economy is able to source trust to its customers. Homes on Airbnb, rides on Lyft are insured up to 1 million dollars, drivers on Uber undergo training  and must pass regular inspections on quality, taskers on Taskrabbit undergo rigorous verification processes. To top it all, there is an awareness and acceptance of collaborative consumption.

This ability to source trust is lacking in India. This is the reason that these models are taking time to find roots. Uber and many other ridesharing TNCs were banned in New Delhi recently when one of the driver raped a woman passenger. Apparently, Uber hadn’t done proper verification checks on the driver before enrolling him in.

AirBnB – home sharing for small duration rentals doesn’t work as well in India because people are scared to go through the hassles of properly vetting people and host them for such small durations. But semi-permanent rentals is a huge market and already accepted in most parts of India. Housing.com just raised $100 million in funding last month to organise this space and competes with many other startups.

There is also no dearth of innovative business models in this space to make them compatible with Indian conditions. For example, Poolcircle is a new ridesharing startup out of Bangalore, that enables you to share rides with people in your circles. Connections can be made with friends, family, neighbours and online connections. You can create as many circles and decide all their members. The trust is sourced in the manner that, your ride partner will be someone with whom you have any form of a connection.

All of this zeroes in, on a key element – technology. As pointed earlier, when regulatory institutions fail to foster trust, technology enabling review layer would help source it in a credibly transparent fashion, one that is for the people and by the people. For more information on how technology can help enable such solutions in the on-demand space, learn about the proprietary modules we’ve succeeded in creating here.

Our personal experience at Jungleworks in this space having launched an On Demand Auto Rickshaw (ride of choice in India) platform, Jugnoo in a Tier 2 city in India also fills me with hope. We are servicing 5000 rides a month having launched just 3 months ago. Trust and security are being ensured by constant iterations based on the feedback and by being extremely picky on drivers being enrolled in the system. Drivers are being empowered like never before as they are seeing an average of 60% increase in their regular income.

Conclusion

The oft used example of how a drill is just used for 5 to 20 minutes in its lifetime is sometimes not the best indicator of the need for sharing economy platforms. A recent article along the same lines, says that the average price of a drill is as low as $20, and that a drill sharing economy would atleast have a $5 cost of using the drill for some work. Similarly, setting up a cabinet in your home using Taskrabbit would cost you anywhere between $34 and $46, which would probably involve drilling two holes into the wall.

These numbers reflect a much deeper idea, that goes against what sharing economy proponents have to say. The sharing economy in its current state, in the digital age, is not a moral duty that we as citizens of this earth or well wishers of humanity should indulge in. It has its roots buried deep within capitalism, where some people have simply created a platform and are earning a percentage as commission. All those who attribute sharing to socialism are highly mistaken. As Joshua Brustein so eloquently puts it, The Sharing Economy Isn’t Quite a Kick to Capitalism’s Crotch!

However, all said and done, this disruption can still help developing nations in so many ways, that it is definitely a trend to watch out for!

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