At 21 years of age, Ritesh Aggarwal is India’s youngest millionaire entrepreneur, having created budget hotel startup OyoRooms.

Ritesh was born to a business family in Orissa and attended the Sacred Heart School in Raygada, Orissa. During the growing up days in Raygada, it was all about fun and learning for him. But Ritesh’s ways were rather unconventional from those of other kids. His fun elements included screwing around with the computer, trying hard to find opportunities to make mistakes so that he could learn new stuff. As a result, he gained a keen interest in softwares. This started with the idea of knowing more about it and then the hunger just went on increasing. To quench his thirst to know more, he borrowed his elder brother’s books for programming. Some of the fun languages like Basic and Pascal were taught in school itself, and rest he managed to learn from Google. He had started coding when he was just eight years old. Hence, software had obviously become his first love. By the time he reached tenth grade, he had made up his mind and wanted to take up coding for eleventh.

Later in 2011, Ritesh moved to Delhi with strong intentions of starting up something of his own. At the same time, he also prepared for SAT to move to the States for further studies. But fortunately or unfortunately, SAT never happened. Thereafter he used to do nothing but read about entrepreneurs, startups, businesses and especially, Airbnb.

Ritesh later joined University of London’s course at Indian Business School. Just after three days of joining, he could not control his craving to kickstart his venture. So he took a day’s leave to work on the project and finally he never went back. Ritesh always felt that the budget hotels in India didn’t even meet the very basic needs of a budget traveler. Hence, capitalizing on this opportunity, he started his first venture in 2012 and called it Oravel Stays. It was an aggregator of bed and break for stays across India. In a matter of no time, he secured funding of 30 lakhs from VentureNursery, an accelerator firm which brought together a bunch of investors to nurture startups.

With sufficient money in his pocket, he started working towards his new craze. Simultaneously, he also presented his idea to Thiel Fellowship, a global contest for students under the age 22. He managed to reach among the top 10 winners and received a sum of $100,000 from Peter Thiel (the Co-Founder of PayPal and an early Investor in Facebook). With this new found confidence, he started working even more rigorously. But to his hard luck, business model didn’t seem to be picking up. As much as he tried to fix, things just were not falling in place.

Ritesh then went into the thinking mode and realised, the biggest pain while traveling was to find affordable and available hotels to stay in. But like always, we always ended up staying in a crappy place. This motivated him to create an online social community, to bring information about all good places together in one platform. As a result, in 2013 he relaunched Oravel as OYO Rooms. The name OYO means “On Your Own”. It was nothing but an idea to create India’s largest chain of efficient, young and standardised budget rooms. Later in 2014, the company raised 4Cr from LightSpeed Venture partners and DSG Consumer Partners at a money evaluation of 14Cr.

Since the, OYO Room has went on to become India’s first technology driven network to give standardised budget hotels in all major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, etc.

Ritesh was not only one of the rare persons who only dreamt big but also kept a vision to achieve bigger. His early life is a perfect example of how young minds can dream and make it happen.

OyoRooms data

Funding amount: US$130 million
Key Investors: SoftBank, Lightspeed, and Sequoia Capital.
Latest funding stage: Series C
Industry: E-commerce, travel

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