NEW DELHI :
In 2011, Ritesh Agarwal was struggling to raise funds to fuel his dream of running a hotel booking website like AirBnB. The Oyo founder, then a 17-year-old start-up entrepreneur, offered a 15% stake in his company for just ₹30 lakh.
Entrepreneur and investor Vishal Gondal was, however, not very convinced with the bold ambitions of the college dropout teenager who was just trying to start Oravel, the parent company of Oyo, with the target of making 9 lakh monthly bookings in four years and ₹650 crore in annual revenues.
"It was very interesting to meet this young boy with such bold ambitions. I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest in Oravel. I had my doubts on whether Indians would want to live in strangers’ homes, and the numbers he projected looked crazy big," Gondal wrote in a Mint column recently.
But there was something in Ritesh Agarwal's idea and passion that Gondal didn't want to decline the offer either. He decided to wait and watch how the company grows before investing.
Agarwal's company Oravel Stays Private Limited now runs Oyo Hotels and Homes, the world's third largest hotel chain by room count. The hospitality start-up is now valued at $10 billion, according to a latest Bloomberg report.
"Unfortunately, I completely missed the opportunity and, if I had a time machine, the only thing I would want to do is to go back in time and undo my decision," Gondal says.
Oyo now has more than 23,000 hotels across 18 countries around the world in its inventory.
Ritesh Agarwal, who will now invest $2 billion to triple his stake in Oyo, himself admits that the circumstances were different back then.
In a tweet, Agarwal said Gondal is the original start-up hero.
"As the man behind Indiagames, you're an original start-up hero. I have learned a lot from the way you do business. You may not have invested in OYO, but I certainly earned a lot from you," Agarwal said.
Gondal was then the poster boy of the Indian gaming industry and later on sold his start-up Indiagames to Walt Disney for $100 million.
He now runs GOQii, a wearable tech company with a focus on preventive healthcare.
Having learnt his lesson, Gondal now has a piece of advice for all investors - "If you meet a 17-18 year-old entrepreneur, just invest."