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Founder of $10bn hotel startup Oyo gives up salary over COVID-19

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Oyo Hotels founder and chief executive Ritesh Agarwal. Photo: Oyo

The founder and chief executive of Indian hotel booking startup Oyo is to forgo the remainder of his 2020 salary in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Oyo said on Thursday that Ritesh Agarwal will not take a salary from April. The rest of the company’s executive team will also take salary cuts of between 25% and 50%.

“Given the current business situation, which is unprecedented for our industry globally, I am foregoing 100% of my salary for the rest of the year,” Agarwal said in a statement.

“We at OYO stand committed towards the fight against COVID-19 and will try to do everything in our control to reach out and help people while also ensuring long term success of the company.”

The announcement comes days after Yahoo Finance UK revealed that Oyo had furloughed the majority of its UK staff due to “a sharp, recent downturn in our business as a result of the coronavirus outbreak”.

India-headquartered Oyo, which is backed by Japan’s SoftBank, was set up as a way to book budget Indian hotel rooms online but has rapidly expanded to become a global business. It partners with hotels to provide booking and revenue management software, in exchange for a cut of earnings.

Agarwal founded the business in 2013 when he was just 19. The company was valued at $10bn as recently as last October.

Oyo has signed up around 200 hotels in the UK, most of which are small and medium businesses. Some locations remain open for NHS staff and other key workers, offering accommodation at discount rates. Oyo is also in talks with councils about repurposing locations for emergency use. Cardiff Council is already using one of its sites to house homeless people in the area.

Oyo has had a difficult start to 2020, with thousands of layoffs around the world before the coronavirus crisis hit. Dozens of staff were let go in the UK and the executive who spearheaded the UK launch left in January. A key lieutenant of his also left in recent weeks.