Drive into the New Year with Ritesh Agarwal: Self-reflection and sleep tops OYO founder’s priority list

Drive into the New Year is a YourStory series featuring leaders as they rev into 2021. It offers you a view into how Indian changemakers plan to navigate the road ahead. Today, we have Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO of OYO Rooms, in the driver's seat.
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Founder and CEO of Oyo Rooms Ritesh Agarwal — the world’s second-youngest billionaire — says he lives by one guiding principle — “Every overnight success is a five-year-old story.”  

The 27-year old, who hails from Odisha, was in the news throughout 2020, for reasons both good and bad. But he hopes “2021 to be a lot more certain, bringing in with itself hopes and possibilities.” 

“For OYO, 2021 will be the year of resurgence after a year of resilience,” Ritesh tells YS Weekender, as a part of our Drive into the New Year series. 

The entrepreneur says this year, OYO will be prioritising its hotel and homes business, on building market leadership in India,  South-east Asia, and Europe, “While building challenging positions in other markets.” 

Ritesh’s personal goals are also very clear — to spend more time with family and friends, read more, focus on self-reflection, and to get enough sleep.

2020 in a rear-view mirror 

A firm believer in resolutions, Ritesh makes his before the start of every New Year. 

In 2019, he says, he had promised to travel all the cities that India shares a border with, and he was successful in doing so. 

Luckily, his last year’s resolution — similar to one of his priorities for 2021 — was to get enough sleep. “Thankfully, due to COVID-19, I was pretty successful in doing so,” he laughs. 

Ritesh Agarwal, Founder of OYO Rooms | Source: Twitter

The founder reveals that he usually gets four to five and a half hours of sleep every night, but is constantly trying to improve and increase it to seven hours. 

“When you are working on something with all your intent, you end up pushing your boundaries for one day and it never really stops. You keep saying to yourself — ‘One more day.’ I want to be more disciplined about it; sleep is the most underrated and unappreciated thing,” Ritesh adds. 

Professionally, Ritesh says: “2020 has been the ‘CTO’ companies needed.” According to him, the pandemic pushed companies to use technology like never before, and going ahead, the entrepreneur wants to spend more time learning about ever-evolving technology and understanding data science better. 

Looking ahead 

Needless to say, 2020 has been a challenging year, especially for the hospitality industry. However, Ritesh is hopeful about what the future holds for OYO Rooms. 

“This year’s big focus is to communicate and have face-to-face conversations with our hotel partners. I owe 2021 to our OYOpreneurs for the hard work they have been putting in,” Ritesh says. 

His professional priorities for the year is to make sure that OYO partners and customers receive top services. “I spent a majority of my time in 2020 reviewing areas of improvement,” he adds. 

Personally, Ritesh looks forward to investing more time in reading “Not just the usual books but Odia novels and poetry I grew up reading,” he adds. The top list in Ritesh’s 2021 list is No Rules Rules, on Netflix and the culture of reinvention. 

He also plans to give either basketball or cricket a shot this year, and listen to Nas Daily’s podcast (in which he has been earlier featured) and The Tim Ferriss Show

Lessons to live by 

Ritesh believes that trust is an important factor when it comes to building a successful business. The founder says, “Do not wait to earn trust, it is better to give trust.” 

Secondly, he says, one should set goals and consistently work towards fulfilling them. “Get things started and then work towards perfection...2020 has taught me resilience like never before. I have seen the toughest time in business,” he adds. 

We asked Ritesh what he belives aspiring entrepreneurs must do. 

“I am still fighting it out like any other entrepreneur,” he says.

However, the founder has few tips for entrepreneurs who are just starting with their journey: 

  • “Your ‘me’ time impacts your ‘they’ time.” The unicorn founder suggests spending the morning or afternoons to solve the most complex problems. 
  • Secondly, he advises aspiring entrepreneurs to make physical activities a part of their daily routine. If it's too overwhelming, one should dedicate time at least three days a week to physical activities. “Doing it will tell you how much more productive it makes you,” he adds. 

Ritesh Agarwal, Founder of OYO Rooms | Source: Twitter

  • Thirdly, Ritesh says that entrepreneurs should always bring in people and leaders in the company who are smarter than themselves, and then give them the responsibility of being a co-owner. “That makes life easier to operate, as an entrepreneur,” he adds. 

Quoting Mark Twain, he says, “I never let schooling interfere with my education.” 

A college drop-out himself, Ritesh believes that education is a life-long pursuit. He advises people to use as many learning formats as possible, throughout their life. 

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, never stop fighting. You might need to change directions, dig a little deeper, but always keep fighting,” Ritesh ends. 
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta


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