Everything Must be Challenged

By Ritesh Agarwal


Rodrigo Cordeiro

Disruption requires businesses and the people who run them to unlearn to relearn, and they should not stop challenging everything until they find something unique, writes Ritesh Argarwal, the founder and CEO of OYO.

The pandemic is seeing the advent of a new world order. It has changed the way we live, think and interact, and forced tens of millions of people to adopt remote working almost overnight. Face-to-face meetings have been replaced by video conferencing, and daily commuting and business travel have stopped. ‘Innovate or dissipate’ is the battle cry often uttered by management consultants and self-help gurus at seminars and management offsites the world over as business comes to grips with what’s happening in and around them.  

Innovation is not technology. Technology is never the solution nor is it the silver bullet that defines the future of business. Technology is an enabler. The real innovation is in the business model. The challenge for businesses is to find a problem and create an approach that changes the way the problem is solved. Businesses, and the people who run them, need to unlearn to relearn because it is people and not technology that are the architects of success in business. Don’t stop because you’ve found a way to do something better. Keep going until you find something unique. Legacy, everything, must be challenged. This is a huge challenge for organisations, even the most nimble, because disruption involves replacing a successful formula with a risky bet.

As the economy slowly opens up, the pandemic will leave a long trail of disrupted methods, which cannot be reversed. 

“The pandemic will leave a long trail of disrupted methods which cannot be reversed”

Ritesh Agarwal

Organisations will need to reimagine the customer experience and reengage with customers to build and maintain their trust. They need to embrace a global mindset where everyone, regardless of location, role or responsibility, works as one team, with a shared set of values, and focused on a common purpose. The exuberance of youth must coexist with the experience of age. If the goal is to disrupt, we need to focus on the connection and inspire the people. The organisations we build must reflect the customers we serve. 

For the hospitality industry to survive and thrive, existing strategies need to be remodeled for the future. At the core of this strategy should be the consumer - the latest disruptor in the hospitality space. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us it is that consumer profiles, tastes, needs, and expectations are all changing. We will need to reimagine the customer experience and take deliberate action to maintain and build consumers’ trust.

Regardless of geography, generation or gender each consumer is unique. Rising individuality is a major trend, and the industry will have to cater to each guest differently. New fundamentals should not only help the industry adapt to the new normal but also help mitigate the long-term destruction caused by the virus to drive quicker upturn. 

Trust will play a pivotal role in enabling organisations to recover and rebuild in the near term, and to thrive in the long term. What we are seeing is that where customers are travelling, they are doing so via their own transport, and staying away from public transport including trains and airplanes. We see a trend where hotels in the city, or ones that you can access via cars or bikes within 45 minutes to one hour are doing well. Customers are also not experimenting: two-thirds of OYO’s customers are repeat customers, and 70 per cent of those have stayed at the same OYO Hotel they have stayed in previously. Customers trust us and know they can expect a certain standard of quality.

Across the hospitality sector, companies will need to take every opportunity to move touchpoints online as part of a broader effort to protect the health and safety of customers and employees. However, moving these touchpoints online means that these organisations can’t deliver the personal touch and interpersonal interactions that traditionally played a key role in the overall customer experience.

The industry will need to find ways to deliver a unique experience in order to differentiate ourselves, strengthen our customer relationships, build customer loyalty, and retain our brand. The key for all hospitality organisations will be to strike the right balance between technology-enabled self-service and the need or desire for human interaction in service-based offerings.

To remain relevant in the future, we will further strengthen our foundation by using our resources more effectively, as well as the technology we have, to deliver better value to our partners and customers around the world. 

We need to act now, adapt to the new normal, and position for nimbleness in order to thrive in the years ahead. Leveraging opportunities and learnings during this time has led to us creating more of a new virtuous cycle, rather than being stuck in a vicious cycle. This is the time for businesses — all businesses — to change or risk being changed.