The hotel industry isn't known as being the most technology-forward business out there, but that perception is changing, often at a rapid pace. The latest envelope pusher is Oyo Rooms, India's largest network of branded hotels, which recently announced its plan to hire more than 2,020 technology experts and engineers by the year 2020.
"At Oyo, we currently have 700 technology experts and engineers that have developed over 20 in-house products helping 10,000+ asset partners globally and making them better hospitality players," Ritesh Agarwal, Oyo's founder and CEO, said while making the announcement at the first edition of the company's tech conference "Oyo Check-in 2018," reports Daijiworld.
“With another 2,020 experts joining us by 2020, we will continue to invest in technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and [the Internet of Things] that will make curated guest experiences at every price point a reality,” Agarwal added.
Headquartered in Gurugram, the 5-year-old hotel chain topped the LinkedIn "Top Startups List" for India released this week.
Oyo said technology has always been a key differentiator, and has developed a number of technological products that power various business verticals. The company has pulled in $1 billion in new funding to grow its business in China and expand into other international markets. The majority of the funding—$800 million—was led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund with participation from Lightspeed, Sequoia and Greenoaks Capital, reports Tech Crunch. Oyo said there is also an additional $200 million that has been committed from as-yet-unnamed investors. The deal values the company at $5 billion.
“This additional capital will help us strengthen our market position in India & China, and boost our international growth,” the company tweeted.
Before today, Oyo had raised $450 million from investors. Its previous financing was a $250 million round last September that was led by the Vision Fund and included a $10 million follow-on investment from China Lodging.
Agarwal wouldn’t give sales numbers, but he said the number of transactions has tripled in the last year, with 90 percent coming from repeat travelers—and no money spent on advertising. There are now 10,000 hotels in 160 Indian cities, with more than 125,000 rooms, listed on the site, he told Money. That’s about 5 percent of India’s total room inventory, according to RedSeer estimates.
Earlier this month, Oyo said it was looking to sign deals for as many as 300 independent hotels by the end of 2019. This would be the company's first expansion outside of Asia. Agarwal said he plans to spend $53 million to launch the company in 10 British cities over the next 18 months via a smartphone-based service for franchise owners and guests.
Agarwal said his company will select hotels from among Britain’s 35,000-40,000 independent operators, offering redesign, property management and marketing to help them compete. “By focusing on the customer and small-asset owners, we tend to outcompete some of our more traditional hotel chain rivals,” he said.
Oyo was started in May 2013 by Thiel Fellow Agarwal, who was then 19 years old. The company aggregates budget hotels and hostels in India, ensuring that they include minimum standards such as clean sheets, hot showers and free Wi-Fi. It has since branched out into other kinds of lodgings, and verticals that include wedding planning.