[Watch] When Odisha-Born OYO CEO Ritesh Agarwal Doubled Up As Cleaning Staff & Was Tipped Rs 20!

New Delhi: Success doesn’t come easy. Behind every achievement is a story of struggle. So was the case with OYO CEO Ritesh Agarwal. In a recent interview, he spoke about his experience during the early days of his career. He talked about the time when he used to not only be the boss of his own hospitality company but also doubled up as the front desk manager and as the cleaning staff when needed.

Agarwal dropped out of college at the age of 19. The calculated move made him eligible for the prestigious Thiel Fellowship, an initiative established by billionaire Peter Thiel. He became the first Asian recipient of the fellowship, which awarded him a grant of $100,000. This enabled him to return to India and start his hospitality business, OYO.

In an interview with BizTalk, Agarwal recounted a memorable incident where he found himself cleaning a hotel room, only to be confronted by an angry customer. “Unhone badi daant lagayi ki 10 minute ho gaya” (He scolded us because we were late), the CEO of OYO recalled. The customer assumed that Agarwal was part of the cleaning crew and reprimanded him for the delay, because Agarwal and his team were occupied cleaning another room at the time.

Agarwal himself cleaned the room thoroughly and what’s more, the impressed customer gave him a tip of Rs 20 as a token of appreciation.

Agarwal took to his Twitter account to highlight an important issue: the role of housekeepers, desk managers, and other staff in the hospitality industry.

He wrote, “The real stars of the hospitality industry are the front office managers, cleaning crew, receptionists and behind-the-scenes staff who ensure guests have the best possible experience during their stay. Early on I got to experience this first-hand when a customer tipped me ₹ 20.”

In an interview with Humans of Bombay in 2020,  Agarwal elaborated on the early days of his career. He said, “During those initial days, I even worked as part of the hotel staff-servicing rooms, babysitting, and even playing UNO with customers-sometimes, being tipped for it all as well!”


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