A Job News USA employee, right, speaks to job seekers before the start of a career fair (Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

Startup Street: Why Oyo Is The Most Sought-After Startup Workplace

This week on Startup Street, we take a deep-dive to understand why India’s young professionals want to work at hospitality startup Oyo. Google’s first ever Demo Day event in Asia yields an Indian winner. And how Kerala is continuing its push for homegrown ventures. Here’s what went on:

India’s Most Sought-After Startup

The logo of OYO Rooms, operated by Oravel Stays Pvt, is displayed outside a hotel in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)  
The logo of OYO Rooms, operated by Oravel Stays Pvt, is displayed outside a hotel in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)  

Hospitality chain Oyo is not only among India’s fastest growing startups. It is also the most-sought after startup by professionals. That’s according to a recent LinkedIn report which put Oyo on top of its annual ranking. The ranking is fueled by the engagement and job interest data of more than 50 million professionals in India.

Oyo’s success stems from the fact that the startup attempts to treat its employees as partners—or OYOpreneurs, as they are called. According to LinkedIn, that has imbibed among employees a sense of belonging and ownership in the company, which translated to a happier workforce.

“We promote an open and approachable work environment which is something that most professional look for in their workplace,” Dinesh Ramamurthi, chief human resources officer at Oyo, told BloombergQuint in an emailed interview. “This is one of the main reasons why young professionals love to be associated with the brand.”

(Source: Oyo)
(Source: Oyo)

But Oyo says it goes beyond just that.

To ensure transparency, the startup uses an artificial intelligence-powered chat-bot named Amber which can help the staff communicate with the top management in real time. The bot also gauges the behaviour and sentiment of staff which in turn helps the top management to engage with them and retain talent.

“This is a crucial aspect as in many cases, and employees tend to feel that their concerns are unheard and unaddressed. With this, we have been able to bridge the gap in communication between the top level management and staff at the grass root level,” Ramamurthi said. The startup has also been organising a quarterly town-hall to encourage free flow of information and ideas between employees and management.

Founded in 2013 by a then teenager Ritesh Agarwal, Oyo has build itself into one of India’s largest hospitality chains with a sprawling network of budget hotels. It has since expanded its network outside borders to Malaysia, UAE, China, Nepal, Indonesia and most recently the U.K. On the way, it has also earned the backing of Softbank Corp’s billionaire CEO Masayoshi Son. He has invested about $440 million in Oyo through Softbank’s Vision Fund, according to Crunchbase. Oyo has also pivoted to event management.

Ritesh Agarwal, founder and chief executive officer of Oravel Stays Pvt, owner and operator of Oyo Rooms, poses for a photograph in New Delhi, India (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)  
Ritesh Agarwal, founder and chief executive officer of Oravel Stays Pvt, owner and operator of Oyo Rooms, poses for a photograph in New Delhi, India (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)  

The firm now plans to hire 2,020 new employees—tech experts and engineers—by 2020.

When asked what Oyo looks for most in an employee, Ramamurthi said: “We look for problem-solvers.”

We seek hustle and high energy in potential employees. Cross-functional collaboration skills, intellectual ability, rigor and a sense of ownership are other prerequisites.
Dinesh Ramamurthi, Chief HR Officer, Oyo

Healthcare Startup Bags Google Award

Winners of Google Demo Day Asia (Source: Google)
Winners of Google Demo Day Asia (Source: Google)

Bengaluru-based SigTuple has won the judges’ choice award at Google’s first Demo Day programme for Asia held in Shanghai earlier this week.

SigTuple was chosen for its “work in using artificial intelligence to support the healthcare system in India”, Google said in a blog post. SigTuple, founded in 2015, develops artificial intelligence solutions that aid in screening, managing, visualsation and analysis of medical data.

“SigTuple is what it is today because all of us aspired to make a huge social impact,” Apurv Anand, co-founder of the startup said. “This one is for our team back home.”

In March this year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had announced the first Demo Day in Asia. The idea was to get the best startups from the Asia-Pacific region and help them pitch to top investment and venture capital firms. After going to “hundreds of applications” over the six months, Google selected 10 finalists and had them fly to Shanghai.

The judges included: Jenny Lee, Managing Partner at GGV Capital; Zheng Qing Sheng Partner at Sequoia Capital China; Plern Tee Suraphongchai, Partner at Ventura Capital; and Bradley Horowitz, Vice President of Product Management at Google.

The audience choice award went to Marham, a digital healthcare platform from Pakistan.

SigTuple was also part of Google’s Launchpad Accelerator last year where employees got two-weeks of training at the search giant’s California headquarters. They also received six months of mentorship, equity-free support, and access to Google’s engineers and credits to use its services.

According to Crunchbase it has raised about $25 million from Accel Partners and IDG Ventures.

Kerala’s Push For Homegrown Startups

Kerala’s government has decided it will purchase more software, services and applications from the startups of the state.

The state government has raised the cap on direct purchases to Rs 20 lakh a year from Rs 5 lakh earlier, according to a statement by the Kerala Startup Mission, the state's startup promotion agency. The startups from which the state departments can buy should be registered with the Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy.

Good news for all startups out there! Kerala government increases cap on direct purchase of software products, services...

Posted by Kerala Startup Mission on Wednesday, September 19, 2018

There is a limitation. One purchasing officer can only make a maximum of two purchases in one year from a startup.

The decision has come after KSUM had submitted a proposal in an attempt to boost an already thriving startup ecosystem in Kerala. The government decision is in accordance with the policy of bringing government as an early marketplace and will provide a major boost for the start-up ecosystem in Kerala, the media statement said.

“This decision will help startups to work closely with government and come up with innovative solutions, which are useful for the departments,” said Saji Gopinath, CEO of KSUM in the statement. “The recent floods also proved the startups’ capability of supporting the government in disaster management.”