Ritesh Agarwal has a new task at hand – rebuild OYO’s battered image in the eyes of hurt hoteliers and customers

  • OYO has a battered brand image that needs urgent attention.
  • From layoffs to income tax searches, there has been a barrage of news and headlines about OYO, which now founder Ritesh Agarwal must attend to.
  • In 2020, OYO is already in repair mode. In order to cut costs they have laid off employees and are moving away from mindless growth and turning their focus on sustainability.
It’s been a difficult start to the new year for OYO. From layoffs to income tax searches, there has been a barrage of bad news, as a result of which the brand has taken a hit.

A former OYO employee reminisces the old times, “There was a time when just saying ‘OYO’ was enough to make a sale.”

But today, it’s the very name is invoking fear and much more. Given its troubled image, which is why not many hotels are enthusiastic about signing up, another employee told Business Insider.

Hoteliers are pinpointing issues like contractual errors, delayed payments and more.

Ritesh Agarwal, the 26-year old entrepreneur, who once dreamt to be the world’s largest hotel chain, today has new tasks at hand. He has to take a deep breath, analyse the tricks and trades of the game and move towards profitability.

A ‘stretched’ brand value

While doing so, Agarwal has to ensure OYO’s bright days shine through its many problems.

“A brand image is not just top down but it’s also bottom up, as far as OYO is concerned it is battered. Fundamentally because a brand is only as good as the imagery as the brand enjoys in its consumers minds. OYO’s consumers have consistently used the brand, and have found discrepancies and therefore the early success that Ritesh got with established the brand all that has been frittered away today,” said Harish Bijoor, a brand consultant.

Bijoor explains that when a brand tries to expand itself at a much faster pace than it must, it thins it out. It does not deepen brand value but instead stretches it.

But OYO’s problems have been on the road since the second half of 2019. According to a report by PR tech platform Wizikey which analyses data around news, OYO was one of the top newsmakers of 2019, but for the wrong reasons.

In the light of all of this, experts say that Agarwal’s first step should be addressing concerns and being upfront about it.

“OYO should be far much more humble in its tonality while also being upfront about things. Ritesh’s letter was an amazing thing, but they should work on more such upfront things,” said Anshul Sushil, co-founder, Wizikey.

‘OYO’ as a keyword is at the peak of Google search in five years, according to Google Trends. However, unfortunately, it comes at a time when the $10 billion startup is facing a crisis.



Sustainability, honesty and humility


When a brand is in the news for the wrong reasons, they can do three things, explains Sushil, – remain quiet, go louder or just stay humble and clarify things. “Everybody will get more negative, here’s where OYO should continue their work done but also bring out candidness and humility. This will work for the brand, especially when it’s a global brand,” he said.

In 2020, OYO is already in repair mode. In order to cut costs they have laid off employees and are moving away from mindless growth and turning their focus on sustainability.

And here’s what OYO must do further.

“OYO must shed its flab, shed its properties – in a greed to acquire more properties if it has left behind quality that must be corrected. The effort has started by whittling people away at the top and the middle ground, as it was getting too middle heavy. The problem is when someone is on a rollercoaster and going towards an IPO, one starts believing in the numbers game and acquiring more properties, that is completely wrong,” said Bijoor.

See Also:
Inside OYO’s offices ⁠— how a 'high pressure' work environment broke a promising startup brand
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