“Trust plays an important role in the direction a business takes,” says OYO’s Ritesh Agarwal
Atleadership meetings, there are always a few who disagree with Ritesh Agarwal’s opinion. “I respect that and I’m always happy to learn from people smarter than me,” says the Founder and Group CEO of OYO Hotels and Homes. According to him, it’s important to surround yourself with people who give you a reality check. “Don’t leave space for arrogance. Staying humble and grounded allows entrepreneurs to get authentic perspectives from their stakeholders.”
With COVID-19 affecting a huge part of his business, Ritesh says it accelerated his learning curve. “You learn from every crisis, and this year I’ve learnt more than I have in my entire career.” They made structural cost advantages, improved tech for partners and built good products. And their priorities reflect in their progress, with their global supply and occupancy picking up since the lockdown.
Trust and transparency triumphs uncertainties
The pandemic presented huge challenges for OYO and the hospitality industry as a whole. But what kept Ritesh going are his core values of trust, resilience and mutual respect.
Like many other entrepreneurs, he too had to take the difficult route of letting people go to safeguard the company’s interest in the long run. And this is where Ritesh faced his moment of truth. “It was about one bad choice over another and was an incredibly painful time, especially when you are a young company and have worked with your team very closely,” he says.
But Ritesh also remembers the OYOpreneurs’ unwavering support in building the company. They announced ESOPs for OYOpreneurs, implemented a placement support system and further formed an exigency fund.
“Leaders shouldn’t just build and accumulate wealth but give back to society.”
He adds, “My experience has taught me that trust in people plays an important role in the direction a business takes. If you don’t trust people, there is a 100 percent chance you could fail. If you trust people, there is a 50 percent chance you could win. Trust betters your odds of success.” The trust that early investors like Bejul Somaia (LightSpeed Ventures) and partners placed in Ritesh, and the trust he placed in his teams’ decisions in return, is the reason OYO stands tall today.
In these unprecedented times, Ritesh says it’s also important for leaders to be transparent. “We interacted and communicated with all our stakeholders and ensured that they were the first to know of any progress or setbacks.”
Success starts with the leader
With the storms Ritesh had to weather recently as a leader, he found a whole new meaning to success. To prepare for future uncertainties, Ritesh personally took ownership for setbacks that came their way. “I always believed that if the pandemic leaves a lasting impact on our business, it should first start with me, the leader.”
He sees leadership as a balanced mix of discipline, empathy, leading from the front, and commitment towards creating an impact through hard work and perseverance. These values have helped him achieve success, which for him is simply enjoying what he does and his passion for everyday problem-solving. “If you have the right values, intent and your heart is in a good place, you will always succeed.”
The making of a man of character
The pandemic has been a time of self-introspection for Ritesh. “2020 has enabled me to reflect on my core working style. One of my biggest learning is being focused, which is one of the most underrated traits of an entrepreneur,” he says.
According to him, several qualities go into building a Man of Character in these times. He says one should never give up, rather go harder at the same aspiration you seem to be failing at.
He reminds young entrepreneurs that every overnight success is actually a five-year-old growth story, so invest in your key competencies. Also, if you have not failed, you have not hardened yourself. “My favourite failure is my first venture Oravel because it brought me here.” The 27-year-old adds that naivete is not bad as it allows you to take bigger risks when you’re not bogged down by adversity.
And the most important one, he says, is, “Don’t forget to pause as your company is growing, to evaluate your own performance and see how you’ve scaled.”
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