I saw an opportunity to build a global brand that is truly from India, says Aditya Ghosh of OYO
It is almost unheard of for a startup to hire a professional CEO, especially when the founder himself is extremely hands-on. Almost as rare are corporate leaders who pass up the opportunity to repeat their stellar performance in the same industry and choose to go work for a startup instead.
But Aditya Ghosh, OYO’s new CEO for India and South Asia, is not your average corporate leader, nor is he a startup veteran. In an ecosystem dominated by IIT and IIM alumni, he is a History and Law graduate. He started his career at Delhi’s J Sagar Associates in 1996 and later joined InterGlobe Enterprises, which runs IndiGo, as its general counsel. By 2008 he was the President and a board member of the airline.
Aditya Ghosh, CEO, India, South Asia, OYO
“My resume and my ref-check are the on-ground and flight staff at IndiGo,” says Aditya disarmingly. IndiGo is where he spent 14 years, turning it from yet another budget carrier to India’s number one airline and led its international expansion, making it the fastest growing low-cost carrier in the world. Inflight and on-ground staff from IndiGo whom we spoke to told us about his warm demeanour, describing him as well-grounded and approachable.
“Interacting with field staff gives me a high, and a ‘rush’ for the day,” he adds. It’s something he has continued doing since he came onboard at OYO in December 2018. Unlike at IndiGo, the scale of operations here is larger. T
he new CEO has over 259 cities to choose from and interact with. So far, he has visited properties in Kathmandu, Bengaluru, and Bhutan, besides Delhi/NCR where he is based. More travel is on the cards.
The new CEO has his work cut out for him. When he joined, OYO had already launched operations in China, the Middle East, and South East Asia. It had also mopped up $1 billion in funding and was a newly minted ‘unicorn’. OYO’s goals are clear: it wants to become the world’s biggest chain of hotels.
That’s easier said than done. And Aditya knows it well.
“In my 100 days in OYO, I have understood while the company has grown in scale, perception is still something that we are working to change. Low price necessarily isn't low quality. My first thing has been to meet every possible person and people on the team."
It's something he loves doing - meeting asset owners, partners, and ground employees. “This totally enthuses me,” he adds.
Not your average CEO
As Aditya looks to scale growth in India and the South for OYO, Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Group CEO, continues to focus on larger goals of the organisation.
When OYO announced his appointment, media reports suggested he chose OYO from among several other opportunities. He even had the option of enjoying the fruits of his labour at IndiGo. One look at his Instagram feed tells you he is a fitness fanatic and used his break between jobs to travel the world. He’s not one to rest on his laurels, though.
“I had my break, focussed on things that I wanted to, and had talks with different people. What got me to look at OYO was the idea of creating something new and different,” he reveals, adding,
“I saw an opportunity to build a global brand that is truly from India. You can see global brands in every nook and corner of India. But, can you see Indian brands in the lanes of cities in the Middle East, South East Asia, or Europe? Not until now. OYO is the single brand that is working to make that happen.”
But with scale comes the question of quality. Will OYO be able to manage that? Aditya response is a measured one:
“There is this perception in the market that low price means low quality. That necessarily isn’t the case. We don’t have everything perfect, we still have a long way to go. But brands are built with consistency and we are striving to build that.”