How Ritesh Agarwal retained Oyo’s key management despite Covid’s carnage

How Ritesh Agarwal retained Oyo’s key management despite Covid’s carnage

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Aditi Shrivastava

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Aditi Shrivastava

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: The pandemic forced Oyo founder Agarwal to reset the company's growth expectations, halt expansion plans, and rationalise costs. But what makes Oyo stand out is a long-serving team that stuck around through the pandemic with minimal attrition. Here’s how Agarwal kept his core team together

September 08, 2022

6 MINS READ

2020 was a year of reckoning for Gurugram-based hotel aggregator Oyo. Even as the Covid-19 pandemic was just gaining notoriety across the world, Oyo had already been plunged into chaos. After years of chasing growth at all costs, the startup—prompted in no small part by its biggest backer, Japanese VC firm SoftBank—shifted its focus to profitability.

The transition was far from painless. Oyo laid off thousands of employees across its global operations, and scaled back its business in China and the US. And with Covid eventually bringing the global hospitality industry to its knees, the worst was yet to come.

In truth, in the early days of the pandemic, Agarwal had little idea about just how severe the compounding effects of Covid would be. However, with the company firefighting on multiple fronts—overhauling its business model, rationalising costs, and navigating the new normal of the pandemic—he knew he needed to take control of the situation.

Every quarter, starting in April 2020, Agarwal made it a point to host leadership “reflection” sessions with his 13-to-15-member reporting team that oozed catharsis. It is a practice he adopted from former State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Om Prakash Bhatt, from back when Bhatt led SBI’s transformation in terms of customer engagement and new monetisation opportunities.

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