Ritesh Agarwal

The 21 year old who is shaking the foundations of India’s hospitality industry

Ritesh Agarwal’s hotel room aggregation model is an original—and a winner. Here’s the story of Oyo.

Ritesh Agarwal was born in November 1993 in Cuttack, Odisha. He finished his schooling in his home state and then moved to Delhi to get a bachelor’s degree. What he did instead was drop out and not tell his parents about it, not knowing how they would react. Still 18 at the time, Agarwal decided to fulfil his childhood dream of becoming an entrepreneur. And thus started his gutsy journey to setting up Oyo, the company that is growing so rapidly, it has shaken India’s hospitality industry to the core. As things stand, Oyo is hurtling towards a billion-dollar evaluation, which will make it a rare Indian first start-up unicorn – a term reserved for companies with ten-figure valuations.

But before Oyo, there was Oravel.

Shortly after he dropped out, Agarwal, who comes from a Marwari business family, decided to make a dent in the hotel industry. He was selling SIM cards in his home town. Now, he had set himself a bigger target, and it came out of his own dissatisfying experiences with budget hotels. There was no set standard of service at these establishments, he felt. Unclean toilets, spotted sheets, stale food, no WiFi, no air-conditioning, just to list a few problems that plague them.

Straight out of college, Agarwal started Oravel, a website that worked on the AirBNB model and aggregated BNB facilities, private rooms and serviced apartments across India.  It received a seed investment of Rs. 3,000,000 from VentureNursery. Later in 2012, Agarwal was selected for the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, from Peter Thiel, the founder of Paypal.

With a $100,000 grant from the Fellowship and the mentoring he received there, Agarwal now received the boost to turn Oravel into Oyo. In 2014, Oravel shut operations and Oyo began its dizzy ascent. In 2015, it had $125 million in investments from SoftBank, Greenoaks Capital, Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed India.

Agarwal’s plan? To provide branded, standardised and affordable services across India’s fragmented hotel market. It is an original idea. There’s no other business model like it in the world. Agarwal started aggregating hotel rooms under the Oyo Rooms brand. The rooms would provide clear signage, clean white sheets, complimentary breakfast, WiFi, clean washrooms, the option to pay by card, among a host of other services – all at affordable rates starting at Rs. 999.

By August 2015, Oyo had enlisted 15,000 rooms in 86 cities with plans to add 50,000 more rooms across 100 cities by the end of the year, as per a report in the Financial Express.

Just to put those numbers into perspective, Oyo is now the leading hotel room provider in India, leaping over the Taj Hotel group which boasts of an inventory of around 9,000 rooms. With India conquered, don’t think that Agarwal is resting on his laurels.

“Oyo Rooms aims to become the largest hotel network in the world,” it says in a presentation made to investors. Don’t be surprised if this boy from a tiny town from south Odisha pulls it off.

(Produced by Contagio Media. Photo via Oyo.)

This IIT engineer converts trash into toys to make science learning fun

Having succeeded at his dream of making thrifty toys, Arvind Gupta is now going online with his educational videos and books.

Ursula K. Le Guin, the famous author, once remarked thus: “The creative adult is the child who has survived.”

And so it is for this engineer from IIT Kanpur. Arvind Gupta was working at TELCO when he realised that making tractors was not something he wanted to do forever. He was passionate about science and wanted to share his interest with others. He was keen to show the world how fun the subject can be.

Arvind took study leave for one year and started teaching rural children as part of the Science Teaching Programme in Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, in 1978.

He did not want to rely on conventional textbook teaching methods for science. He was of the opinion that kids learn faster by doing. Students are more likely to take interest in something they can touch, feel and see. For example, the geometric concepts of the triangle as taught by textbooks can be boring, while the same explained with the aid of a triangular toy will be entertaining and effortless learning.

Arvind wanted to change the classroom environment so that the students can feel free and involved. He wanted them to enjoy the learning process. He was of opinion that instead of lecturing, a teacher should focus on interacting with students. He should encourage children to come up with questions. Kids should be allowed to break apart things so that they can learn to put them back together. He wanted his students to love science as much as he did, so he decided to simplify the learning and turned complex theories into toys.

Arvind used throwaway stuff for making his contraptions. He chose junk because it was inexpensive and easily, locally available to everyone.

He converted plastic bottles, matchsticks, matchboxes, balloon, battery, safety pins, tyre tubes, toothpaste tubes, cardboard boxes, newspaper, straw etc. into innovative toys like motor boats, rockets, water fountains, geometric shapes, flutes, fan cars, vacuum suctions, up-down doll etc. The list runs in to the hundreds.

Arvind presents a toy in the classroom, let children play with it and then explain how it worked. This is a clever way to make kids familiar with otherwise boring and difficult looking scientific theories. He avoids technical jargon and explains everything in simple language. He also teaches kids how to recreate the toys. Resultantly, the students feel more excited and involved and the classrooms become more interactive.

Arvind has also created copyright free video tutorials for his innovations and uploaded them on his website to share his knowledge with more students in different locations. These tutorials are available in several languages.

He also has a popular YouTube channel which is accessed by viewers from 234 countries in 8 languages.

Arvind’s first book ‘Matchstick Models and Other Science Experiments’ was quite popular and sold more than five lakh copies. It was reprinted in 12 Indian languages.

Arvind has also been awarded numerous times. He has been covered extensively by media and was invited to talk on several reputed platforms like INK.

Arvind is now planning to go a step further and create science and math activities to cover the whole curriculum. His model will include simple toys and short videos explaining difficult concepts. Through his website, he wants to connect with the students from the poorest countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to provide them readily available, comprehensive, low cost study material. He also envisions to be a valuable resource library for teachers and parents worldwide.

(Content Produced By Contagio Media. Photo by Nandagopalrl/Wikimedia Commons under CC BY SA 3.0)

Ishita Khanna

She gave up city life to transform lives at 10,000 feet high

Ishita Khanna’s remarkable efforts towards promoting green economy and ecotourism in the spartan Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh is nothing short of magic.

Located at an altitude of at least 10,000 feet above the sea level, the Spiti Valley is as daunting as it is stunning. It snows half the year here — but this region with poor connectivity and harsh life conditions has become not just a model study for sustainable development but an ecotourism hotspot also.

Leading the path of the Spiti success story is Ishita Khanna and Ecosphere, the social initiative she helped co-found. Identifying the rich environmental and economic potential of these Himalayan highlands and the compelling need to sustain it, Ishita began working here around 2002.

What makes the project Spiti Ecosphere distinct is their association with far flung villages of Lahaul and Spiti to create alternative and sustainable modes of employment for native communities. It began with the conservation and promotion of seabuckthorn or the ‘Wonder Berry’ – a region-specific medicinal fruit rich in nutrients – that somehow had remained unfamiliar to the locals. With required training and mobilisation, its growth potential was soon realized with many families taking to berry cultivation in no time.

The impetus of economic empowerment and ownership of their resources has resulted in the strategy being replicated on other crops with local women leading the workforce. And in order to make up for the lack of conventional resources, the team has successfully been working with green houses. This means the community stays self-reliant with its own food supply during winters when the area is cut off from the rest of the world.

The entrepreneurship drive isn’t limited to farming. Ishita and her team are also involved in promotion of art, handicrafts and tourism. Given the limited infrastructure and function period, Ecosphere is making the most the time when this Himalayan wonder is open to outside world. Tourists, in batches, are hosted into the homestay program run by locals on a rotational basis. Travellers, on the other hand, aren’t just introduced to this isolated idyll but learn about ecological conservation during a bunch of activities like trekking, river rafting and safaris.

Ecosphere’s solar-passive housing project has done remarkably well with at least 500 houses benefitting from it along with several monastaries and nunneries. A cheap, viable and renewable source of energy, the solar technology has reduced the threat of climatic degradation by a substantial measure.

If everything that Ishita Khanna has worked on in Spiti in all these years sounds incredible, this Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai) alumna is now in the process of building a solar water station. A mammoth project that it is, it will significantly reduce the burden of procuring potable water from faraway sources.

Regarded as one of India’s prominent social entrepreneurs, Ishita Khanna has been working extensively on natural resource management. Prior to founding Ecosphere, this Dehradun girl had worked with rural development organization CAPART. She is also an Ashoka Fellow.

Arunima Sinha

She Did Not Need Legs To Climb Everest. She Had Courage Bigger Than The Mountain

Meet Arunima Sinha, the woman who refuses to give up.

Arunima Sinha, the girl from Ambedkar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, is no ordinary person. She has already achieved what others can’t even think of, but her iron will is taking her towards accomplishing bigger and higher goals.

A national volleyball player, Arunima’s dreams of a bright future and promising career were shattered when a train went over her left leg, crushing it below the knee in 2011. She was 23 at the time.

Arunima had been thrown out of the train by a couple of thugs after she refused to surrender her gold chain to them. It was post-midnight. Arunima could feel rats gnawing at her wound. And help would not come until dawn.

She was discovered by residents of a nearby village and taken to the district hospital in Bareilly where half of her left leg was amputated to prevent the spread of gangrene. According to Arunima, she had to go through the procedure without anaesthesia as the hospital was short on supplies. The bones in her right leg were also mangled, so a rod was inserted for support.

Her condition was bad. But she was not finished.

She wanted to tell the world that she doesn’t need sympathy. To prove her mettle, she decided to climb Mount Everest – the highest peak in the world. It was the most difficult goal she could set for herself but her family supported her.

After getting out of hospital, Arunima contacted Bachendri Pal – the first Indian woman to climb the Everest, in 1984. Bachendri was heading Tata Steel Adventure Foundation at that time. She was impressed by Arunima’s determination and agreed to help.

Under her guidance, Arunima embarked on her brave journey.

She did a course from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering and started training extensively. At first, she climbed smaller mountains, had her share of accidents, and prepared herself for Everest in 18 months. Bachendri also got her a sponsorship from Tata Steel.

With her funding taken care of, Arunima started climbing the Everest on April 2, 2013 and reached the top on May 21.

A girl, left for the dead on a railway track in 2011, was literally on top of the world in just two years. A truly remarkable feat!

Arunima became the world’s first female amputee and India’s first amputee to conquer Everest.

But she wanted to do more. She had to continue scaling new heights so she decided to climb the highest peaks across the world. She has now climbed the majority of them. Her mission is ongoing.

Arunima has also written a book on her life launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2014.

In 2015, she was honoured with Padma Shri – the fourth highest civilian award in India.

There were also reports of her being in talks with film-maker Farhan Akhtar who wants to make a movie on her life.

With so much going on in her life, you’d think she might not have time to think about anything else. Wrong!

This super woman has been training poor and differently-abled children for some time and has plans to build a non-profit sports academy for them. Although she doesn’t have the funds or a roadmap for the project, the kind of fighter and survivor she is, she is certain of accomplishing her goal.

And we hope she does that sooner! Amen!

Business Loan Underwriting

Business Loan Underwriting: All You Need to Know

When you apply for a small Business Loan, the process of underwriting determines whether you qualify for it or not. We take a look at some of the finer points that an underwriter considers to help guide a small business owner.

When you apply for a loan, the lender wants to make sure that you are able to repay it. The Business Loan underwriting guidelines and commercial loan underwriting guidelines help the lender evaluate and assess whether you and your business is a viable prospect for a Business Loan.

What is Business Loan Underwriting?

Business Loan underwriting is a process of verification of the prospective borrower to determine and analyse whether he or she is capable of repaying the loan. This is done by checking financial records, evaluating the collateral and understanding the business background of the borrower.

These pointers will help you apply for a small Business Loan and guide you on how to become a viable borrower:

  1. Strong Business Plan: Lenders require a detailed current and projected business plan, with enough income as well as money in savings to ensure that loan repayments will be made.
    Cash-flow charts giving details of present and future income are mandatory, and they must show the extra inflow to cover repayments. As with any business, as a first step the entrepreneur needs to prove on paper that there is profitability in the business and that the cash flow in the business allows for the EMI payments to be made every month. This will ensure that you qualify for a small Business Loan.
  1. Collateral: The collateral is any form of additional security that the business offers to the lending agency that serves as a secondary security for the loan. This could be any commercial property that the business owns, its current premises from which it carries out its business, any bank security or even inventory can serve as collateral. The business owner’s assets can also be used as collateral. Ensure that the asset being offered as collateral is in the name of and is in possession of the business or the business owner seeking the loan. This step is considered important when you apply for a small Business Loan.
  1. Credit Score: Underwriters seek to know the past record of how the business dealt with debt. This gives the lending agency an insight of how the business will handle the new debt. In case of a new business, the underwriter may also look at the credit score of the business owner. Depending on the bank or financial institution, some will consider the loan application purely on the credit score while others may consider the credit score as one aspect of the application and give equal importance to the other aspects of the application as well.
  1. Equity: The underwriter also analyses the business owner’s equity in the business that has applied for a loan and his or her holding in the business. Ownership is a symbol of the belief that the business owner has in the business. The underwriter should get a sense that the business owner is dedicated to the business and this can be explained by the ownership title.
  1. Other Sources of Repayment: The application should also try and establish that the business is being steered by seasoned professionals who know how to raise capital from other sources, in case the need arises. Underwriters seek to know that the business is in good hands and they may require a personal guarantee from the business owner.

We understand that a small business has to strive to qualify for a small Business Loan so make things easier for yourself and choose a lender that offers convenient online application. Bajaj Finserv makes the small Business Loan process easier and uncluttered with a hassle-free application process complemented by easy documentation.

Apply for Business Loan

Union budget 2016-17: An expert’s opinion

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently presented the Union Budget for 2016-17. There are many unique ways in which the new budget will benefit companies and salaried and self-employed professionals.

Mr. Sanjiv Bajaj, Chairman, Bajaj Finserv, says, ‘The new budget is very balanced, considering the fact that the Finance Minister had to boost growth while simultaneously maintaining fiscal discipline. It gives an opportunity to the Reserve Bank of India to announce a policy-rate cut.’

Aside from working professionals and banks, the policy has benefited the entire country in a number of ways. Here are the top 4 benefits offered by the Union Budget 2016-17.

1. Tax reforms

Tax procedures have been revamped. According to Sanjiv, “New initiatives on taxation include taxing high income assesses through tax on dividends, Securities Transactions tax on options and increased surcharge on individuals with income greater than Rs 1 crore per annum. The various measures to provide relief to small tax payers and with a focus to initiate pension plans and measures to provide affordable housing would assist the lower and middle class”.

2. Fresher air

With the implementation of a 1% service charge on all luxury vehicles, the budget could contribute to reducing pollution in cities.

The cost of luxury cars and SUVs has also been raised, placing a higher barrier on those looking to own one.

Aside from this, there’s now a pollution cess of 1% on small petrol, LPG, and CNG cars, 2.5% on certain diesel models, and 4% on higher-end vehicles.

These changes aren’t going to dramatically reduce the number of vehicles you see on the street. But they give us hope for a brighter, less-polluted future.

3. Better jobs

The new budget introduces a scheme of Rs.500 crores to teach and promote entrepreneurship development among the SC/ST sectors in the economy. This investment is sure to foster the creation of new companies, thus providing work to job-seekers across the country.

Sanjiv is of the opinion that ‘The investment in rural, social, and infrastructural sectors, along with the specified incentives, is sure to create jobs for millions of youngsters joining the workforce every year. The initiatives taken in the areas of education and skill development will definitely enhance the employability of youth across the country’.

The budget also promises to provide entrepreneurial training across various schools and colleges.

4. Lower rent

‘A budget like this, that focuses on agriculture, rural, and social sectors, coupled with tax rebates and the implementation of the 7th pay commission, is likely to provide a strong impetus to consumer spending’, comments Sanjiv Bajaj.

But that’s not the only reason people will be willing to shell out more of their hard-earned money.

With the new budget, professionals now have the benefit of paying lower taxes on house rent. With the tax deduction on house rent increased from Rs.20,000 to Rs.60,000, individuals will have more money left over to meet other financial obligations.

Besides this, an additional Rs.50,000 is deducted for those taking housing loans up to Rs.35 lakh, provided that the cost of the house doesn’t exceed Rs.50 lakh.

While the Union Budget has its benefits, it’ll be a while before the economy is able to get accustomed to it.

‘The continued focus on maintaining a fiscal deficit at 3.5% of the GDP and giving consumers a higher wallet share towards spending should see India achieve its targeted GDP growth in excess of 7.5 per cent in FY17’ says Sanjiv confidently.

The country is rapidly developing in numerous sectors, and the budget is sure to aid that development.

Ambitious, compassionate, and driven: A prologue to the business women of a new India

The world isn’t just run by men in fancy, well-tailored suits anymore. There are many successful, driven women who have risen to the occasion and are breaking gender stereotypes to get into the driving seat of some of the biggest executive roles the corporate work sphere has to offer.

One such personality from India also happens to be one of the most powerful women in the world: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson and MD of Biocon Limited.

Her success story is nothing short of magnificent.

What started off in a rented garage space in 1978 with a Rs. 10,000 seed budget now stands tall as one of the biggest bio-pharmaceutical companies in the world. Like all tales of success, even she faced numerous hurdles that started with the issue of her credibility. No bank she approached wanted to risk their business on a young, albeit ambitious, 25-year old with an untested business model and nonexistent credentials. Applications were rejected. Doors were shut.

But she braved the storm, built her company from the roots and within the first year of her firm’s inception, began exporting enzymes to various centres in the United States and Europe.

A year later in 1979, she spearheaded Biocon’s evolution from an industrial enzyme manufacturing business to a fully integrated biopharmaceutical entity with advanced research focus on oncology, diabetes and autoimmune diseases.

Presently, Biocon is a company with revenues close to $330 million.

While Mrs Shaw’s efforts were concentrated on building Biocon India from scratch, a rising trend amongst Indian businesswomen is to front the Indian chapter of major MNCs and corporates.

Aruna Jayanthi, CEO of Capgemini India comes to mind with her drive to bring Capgemini to the Indian market.

With over two decades of experience in the IT industry, Aruna Jayanthi now heads Capgemini’s operations in India, which is one of the biggest business units in the company’s portfolio.

Her job profile as the Chief Executive includes overseeing operations across various domains—Consulting, Outsourcing, & Technology services in India with the prime focus on increasing integration and performance of over 40,000 employees.

As a mother of one, Aruna juggles her responsibilities between home and work with aplomb.

There are several other examples of emerging leaders who have taken up challenging roles and delivered fantastic results by using innovative measures and an unorthodox approach to work.

Bajaj Finserv too has such enterprising women who not only juggle their personal and professional lives with elan but also pride themselves on learning new skills and donning new hats at workplace. For instance, Ms. Ajita Kakade, Head, Business and Employee Engagement, Bajaj Finserv has in her earlier avatars driven Operations, Customer Experience and Quality where she designed modules which were implemented by Bajaj Finance Ltd. across all their communication channels and has delivered satisfactory results over the turn of this decade. She’s not only agile as a leader but also an inspiration for many in the organisation who want to challenge the boundaries and break the glass ceiling to excel in the financial services sector.

With strong leadership skills at their core, Indian businesswomen have time and again proved that they can run a family and a billion-dollar empire hand in hand. Let’s take a moment to salute the elegance of womanhood. Happy International Women’s Day.

Business Loans: A Beginner’s Guide

Business Loans: A Beginner’s Guide

Do you need finance to expand your small-scale business or purchase an existing medium-scale enterprise? Here’s our handy beginner’s guide to small business financing.

Mukul Thakkar, 35, was looking to change the way people in Ahmedabad eat by opening a certified organic café in the city and creating what he called a “real food revolution”. Since he already had his decade-old catering business that served food made strictly with locally-sourced vegetables, he was well-versed in this farm-to-table trend of organic foods. However, he was falling short of Rs.20 lakh in terms of capital, and therefore wanted to go in for a good small Business Loan to fund his new café. But he was a novice when it came to short-term small business financing options. So he began doing some research, and few days later, managed to narrow down the guidelines for small Business Loans into his own beginner’s guide to small business financing.

Read on for the pointers in his beginner’s guide to Business Loans:

  • When Should You Apply for a Small Business Loan?

Need finance to fund the expansion plans of your business? Opt for short-term small business financing options. Loans for small business also prove vital when you need to pay for one-off business expenses or manage the demands of employees and clients. What’s the biggest advantage of applying for a small Business Loan? Your company can use the loan amount to increase its working capital. Are you looking to expand your business but already have enough money to make it grow? Taking out a small Business Loan may allow you to maintain your operating cash flow, and thereby help you to cover any unexpected expenses. You can then use the new income gained from expanding your business to make payments on the loan with ease.

  • Who Can Opt for Small Business Finance?

Any firm can apply for a small Business Loan, no matter whether it is a limited or private limited company, or a partnership or proprietorship business. There are Business Loans for self-employed individuals as well as salaried doctors, among others. However, at the same time, you have to be familiar with the requirements of the lender you’re applying to. Knowing whether you meet the eligibility criteria before you apply for a small Business Loan will save you time and frustration.

  • How Much Do You Have to Pay?

Small Business Loan rates and fees vary from lender to lender. The processing fees are often nominal. Business Loan Interest Rates range from 16% to 35%, depending on factors including your loan tenure, the financial situation of your business and your credentials.

Also Read : Things You Need to Know About Small Business Loans Interest Rates

  • Do You Have What It Takes to Qualify?

Before you apply for a small Business Loan, it’s smart to have a clear understanding of what banks and other lenders require in order to consider your application for a small Business Loan. To be considered for short-term small business financing, you typically need an excellent business credit score and good personal credit. More than likely, you’ll need to have been in business for at least 3-5 years prior to applying, and have the documentation to prove your financial stability. Lenders will also ask you for a detailed business project report. A road map and plan to repay the loan that you have can speak volumes in the Business Loan application process. Many lenders also require you to either have a guarantor or pledge collateral, such as property, which they can foreclose on if you fail to repay your small Business Loan.

  • Which Documents Do You Need?

When you apply for a small Business Loan, you are required to fill out forms and documents. It is a good idea to be prepared in advance for your Business Loan application process by gathering some basic information that all lenders will ask for, regardless of the type of Business Loan. Depending on the lender for short-term small business financing options, you’ll need to submit a combination of the following documents with your small Business Loan application:

  • Income details like balance sheet, tax returns of last two years, bank statements
  • Business proof: Certificate of practice
  • Proof of ownership of any property used for business purposes
  • Identity proof, address proof, and photographs
  • How to Speed Up Your Business Loan Application Process?

Is there any way you can prepare to get your small Business Loan quickly? If you want to make the process faster, there are the following things you can do before you apply for a small Business Loan:

  • Ensure that your financial records are updated
  • Be aware of the value of the assets you want to pledge as collateral
  • Keep your bank statements handy
  • What Makes the Bajaj Finserv Small Business Loan Different?

Bajaj Finserv gives you a loan for business without a guarantor or collateral, thereby making the Business Loan application process easier for you. You can apply for a small Business Loan up to Rs.30 lakh through the Bajaj Finserv website and get the approval online as well. Post disbursement, you can also keep track of your Bajaj Finserv small Business Loan by checking the payment schedule, repayment history, etc.

Apply for Business Loan Online Check your Business Loan Eligibility

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