Patience is key in working with the leadership team: OYO’s Ritesh Agarwal

What does it take for a startup to build a successful leadership team? According to Ritesh Agarwalfounder and global CEO of Oravel Stays Limited (OYO),’sahansheelta (endurance/patience)’ is key.

The hospitality giant’s leadership team met in Tech sparks 2022—YourStory’s 13th edition of India’s most influential emerging technology summit—to ponder the question in a conversation with YourStory founder and CEO Shradha Sharma.

Ritesh, 28, the youngest on OYO’s management team, said that as a founder, he realized that patience and the ability to listen to everyone is necessary when it comes to working with the other CXOs.

The founder said that while one reads about the things the company has done wrong, the advice of its leadership team is more critical. He now appreciates those who are open enough to express their views and feel comfortable doing so as well.

“It is essential to be able to listen, accept and constantly work to improve. You should be able to have the ‘sahansheelta’ say, ‘Yeah, I could be wrong,'” he said.

The entrepreneur has learned three things about resolving disagreements with other members of the leadership team: discuss openly, find a solution, and maintain a good relationship with colleagues. “Relationships are more critical than business and objectivity,” Ritesh noted.

“Unfortunately, not everything is under their control,” he added, citing examples of the current pandemic turmoil and funding climate. “The only thing under their control is their management team, their co-founding team.”

TechSparks2022 OYO Leadership Panel Discussion
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Of OYO’s 13 senior leaders, 10 have been around for approximately 90-100% of the time since the company was formed in 2013, according to the founder. Since his entrepreneurial journey started right out of school, without going to college or working at any other company, Ritesh had no choice but to hire outside professional leaders early on.

Abhishek GuptaOYO’s Group Financial Officer, said he was blown away by the audacity of Ritesh’s aspirations, his intellect, hard work and practical nature of the people on the team when he joined in 2015, he would do it again,” he joked.

get people on board

Campus recruiting and dedicated investments in specialized talent have been some of the key pieces of OYO’s recruiting strategies.

“Get people who are hungry and with the ability to take on any challenge; Fresh out of college, less cloudy, open to experiencing new things. We have seen the success of people who have come off campus and subsequently taken on prominent roles,” she added. geetika hansVice President and Head of Product and Global Human Resources Functions, Diversity Leader.

The global hospitality and travel technology company is also focusing on bringing diversity in terms of gender, background and experience, and working on ways to develop them personally and professionally. Additionally, the company is aware of adding more women to its teams, and is doing so primarily through on-campus hiring.

Nikita Garg, VP—Client Acquisition, OYO Vacation Homes, said the company provides a level playing field for all people, regardless of gender and background. “I have never felt biased for or against. I have not felt like a woman but a leader (in OYO)”, she says.

It wasn’t easy for Ritesh to find great talent to be a part of his leadership team. For example, it took him almost six months to bring Kavikrut (who only uses his first name) to join as Head of Expansion in 2014. He is currently the Chief Growth Officer for the giant.

For Kavikrut, the top three things that convinced him enough to join OYO were: an innovative and disruptive business model, the people and their humility, and the kind of ownership that made him feel like his own startup.

He has now ended up staying at OYO for almost eight years and has worked in eight or nine different roles in a variety of functions, as well as launching a couple of businesses internally.

For any business, things are likely to go awry one day or another. OYO’s leadership team learned two lessons when that happens: acknowledge the situation and be honest about it, and avoid negative conversations about water. That is why, they say, they have remained united for so many years as a cohesive group.

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