Most of you may be familiar with the layers of the Atmosphere. But for the sake of convenience, the Stratosphere is the atmospheric layer above the Troposphere in which most commercial and military air crafts fly and through which most rockets must pass before they ascend greater heights. Why this reference? Because I believe that the people at OYO have built a Rocket Ship and the journey from take-off into the Stratosphere that we are now in, has been overwhelming but exciting beyond words.
I consider myself lucky to have got an early bird seat to the take-off. In a little less than 18 months since I’ve closely witnessed, OYO has grown beyond 100X across any perceivable metric. Not surprisingly, July 2014 seems like a different era – a time when CX was more about ensuring guests got to our properties with the minimum trouble possible and taking guests out for lunch to understand how to improve operations (I remember having to do this with a couple of somewhat angry guests, who later turned into OYO promoters), when Transformation (a name given by Shreerang – head of West India at OYO, as an alternative to the somewhat boring ‘Onboarding’) meant ensuring every property (there were under 20 properties then) had well-maintained plants and yellow lighting and deep cleaning (the task of this team is far more comprehensive today – from decals on walls to diffusers at our properties, we cover it all!) and not to forget – there was no mobile app and no web based bookings (which today count for more than 80% of our bookings). Indeed, the view from the rocket ship is very different today and suddenly, everyone is noticing our flight.
While we continue ascending towards space and beyond, I thought I’d take a quick look at some of the things that, according to me, went into building OYO, the Rocket Ship.
1. Hustle we must, but with processes which are ‘zabardast’ (amazing):
In an age when a lot of young startups are in a race to expand, and are relying on hustle to do so, OYO has built a strong culture of being process oriented. Everything was and is done because of a reason and in a manner that it may be repeatable. Hustle, after all, could only have gotten us so far. Back in my time with my previous employer, repeatability was a concept that was often spoken about as a key to success. At OYO, we’ve lived it every step of the way. And we’ve built repeatability because we’ve built processes.
2. Keep going fast, and then faster:
Startups are all about speed or so we hear today. I’ve realized, however, over the last year at OYO and from conversations with friends and peers at other startups, that speed has a whole new meaning at OYO. We’re constantly on a mission to cut down lead-time – be it shipping out inventory to our hotels across India or the latest feature update to our mobile app or taking OYO to more cities – we’re always looking for ways to move fast and transform things.
3. We never settle and constantly question the status quo:
OYO and its people have never accepted any milestone as satisfactory. In August last year, it took us an average of 12 days to activate a new property from the time of acquisition to activation. Today, it takes us four days. And none of this was because of more people. In a similar vein, in April 2015, we added four new cities. In July 2015, we added 43 all thanks to the above ingredients, but also because we never settled into any groove.
4. You can’t do it alone and you can’t do it all:
A lot of startups fail to execute because they tend to be too heavily led by the founders. However, when an organization manages to instill the founder mentality among a larger set of people, it is primed for success. At OYO, the mindset has always leaned towards getting different people to focus on seemingly small but important problems, which when solved can have a monumental impact on the business. This, I believe, is what allows rapid value creation at OYO – with people who are high on ownership and believe themselves to be no less than founders.
These are simple things. We’ve all heard that even rocket science isn’t rocket science (or so I’d like to believe). That’s why, we’re just here, building a rocket to journey into space, to explore the universe beyond the Milky Way that is the world we’ve known so far, and anyone who isn’t on board is missing out on a journey of a lifetime.