Ashwini Gangal

"It’s like a 9/11 moment for the hotel industry”: Oyo’s Ritesh Agarwal to NDTV

Edited snippets of Ritesh Agarwal’s conversation with NDTV, during which he spoke about the future of the hospitality segment and his company.

This morning, NDTV broadcast an interesting 30 minute long interview on TV, as part of a segment called ‘Executive Decision’, in which Sreenivasan Jain, senior journalist at NDTV asked 26-year-old Ritesh Agarwal, founder and CEO of Oyo Rooms, a bunch of questions about how the covid pandemic has affected the industry Oyo is part of.

While the travel, tourism and hospitality industries are all adversely affected by the ongoing covid crisis, Agarwal’s Oyo operates in a unique space within this category, as it is a ‘hotel aggregator’.

“Oyo is highly exposed to the travel and tourism industry,” Agarwal said, going on to confirm that, globally, Oyo’s business is down by around 50-60 per cent, and to an even greater degree in India. The situation is particularly grim for lakhs of small hotel owners that Oyo has partnered with. He also spoke about the fact that people are using hotel rooms for “self-isolation and quarantine…”

Interestingly, Agarwal said his company is “doing no or negligible layoffs…” but added that there have been paycuts for sure. “It’s one bad choice over another bad choice,” he shrugged, adding, “I have taken a 100 per cent pay cut.”

While Agarwal feels the impact of covid on the hospitality industry is not a short term one and will continue well into the future, he is nevertheless optimistic about the ability of his company and the category to bounce back. “It’s not a question of whether we can recover from this, but when and in what form…” he concluded, hopefully.

“It’s like a 9/11 moment for the hotel industry,” Agarwal said, while discussing the way forward for the segment. Just like the travel and airline world ramped up security measures after the tragic 9/11 terror attack, the hotel space is headed towards a similar caution-heavy space in which ‘touchless’ check-ins, contactless payments, and constant sanitising of hotel spaces will become the norm.

In the days ahead, he sees more domestic, versus international, travel and, consequently, a growth opportunity for smaller, boutique hotels.

During the conversation, Agarwal referenced an announcement he made on April 8, 2020, in which he spoke about the strain the company’s balance sheet has come under in recent times and the furloughs Oyo’s employees are facing.

Watch it here: