EXCLUSIVE: OYO’s Ritesh Agarwal reveals he is spending most of his time with data scientists and techies to find ‘new business areas’

EXCLUSIVE: OYO’s Ritesh Agarwal reveals he is spending most of his time with data scientists and techies to find ‘new business areas’
OYO
  • Speaking at the Business Insider Global Trends Festival, Ritesh Agarwal shared that he is now spending the majority of his time with the product, data science, and engineering teams.
  • Agarwal mentioned that pre-pandemic only 15% of their customer queries were answered by bots, and now over 85% of queries are answered by bots.
  • OYO is also using technology for cost optimisation measures.
India’s hospitality unicorn OYO has seen its fair share of troubles in the last year. Just when it rose from an internal crisis to an inspired push towards profitability, the pandemic brought travel and tourism to a grinding halt. The 26-year old billionaire founder Ritesh Agarwal is relying on technology to save his fortunes.

Speaking at the Business Insider Global Trends Festival, Ritesh Agarwal, founder of the budget hotel chain OYO, shared that he is now spending most of his time with the product, data science, and engineering teams.

OYO’s call centre has been replaced by bots

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Before the pandemic, only 15% of their customer queries were answered by bots. That number has spiked to 85%. “It’s because the pandemic forced us to use it. Earlier we would have large call centres with hundreds of people sitting in them, but now you can’t have all of them working in one place. As soon as all of them worked from home, it became inefficient,” he said.

OYO is also using technology for cost optimisation measures. OYO has furloughed several hundreds of employees during the pandemic and implemented a 25% pay cut for all. In an email sent to employees on June 1, Agarwal had said that they had tried to cut down expenses by reducing marketing costs by 88%, general administrative expenses by 43%, and so on.

OYO’s equation with its hotel owners has also been in the news for the wrong reasons. Several hoteliers have often accused the hotel chain of delayed payments, changing contracts, and invoking the force majeure during the start of the pandemic.

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The utility of tech beyond cutting costs

However, Agarwal is confident that tech can mend these strained ties too. “Our OS makes all the decisions and lets our partners do the job of building good relationships with customers. For instance, which room should be given to the customer based on their past preference is something the system automatically decides, and the partner can change it if they want,” he said.

They are using data to capitalise on segments that have survived the crisis, like upmarket vacation homes. “We are seeing growth in weekend travel, and we are seeing essential travel increase, so we are doubling down there,” he said.

And this strategy is here to stay. “In the times to come, I don’t think that you have a business if the technology is not at the heart of each part of your business, whether it’s growth, operating efficiency, new consumer segments or so on,” he said.
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