To further boost India’s growing startup ecosystem and young entrepreneurs, Ritesh Agarwal will step in as an advisor and work closely with the country’s largest incubator — Venture Catalysts (VCats) — to promote entrepreneurship across the country’s tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3 cities. India, one of the biggest and the fastest-growing start-up ecosystems the world, needs more experienced and successful people to step forward to help each other and collectively grow the ecosystem, helping the country become ‘atmanirbhar bharat’ (self-reliant India). Ritesh is taking a step forward in this direction, to give back to the country and his fellow entrepreneurs, along with Dr. Apoorv Sharma, who was one of the first people who had backed Ritesh’s vision when he started Oravel Stays in 2012, and established OYO in 2013.
An entrepreneur from Rayagada in Odisha, Ritesh began his journey at a young age, helping him realise the importance of mentorship and guidance needed for young and early-stage founders. He fondly remembers how different people across the start-up ecosystem have played important and strategic roles in enabling OYO’s sustained growth and expansion. He believes that a start-up requires support at various levels in its early days. While it is imperative for founders to have the right vision, focus, perseverance and patience, the role of people like Dr. Apoorv who supported, mentored and guided him, is critical and key to success.
On the new association, Ritesh Agarwal said, “I started OYO at a very young age and at a time when the ecosystem was not fully developed, I was fortunate enough to get some great mentors like Dr. Apoorv, Bejul Somaia, and many others, who guided and supported me in my start-up journey. Today, many former OYOpreneurs have started their new ventures and are doing really well for themselves. Now that I have established myself as an entrepreneur, I think it is time to give back to society and support entrepreneurs like them.”
“Through this collaboration with VCats, I intend to enable young entrepreneurs coming from the smaller towns of India, who do not get similar opportunities that their peers in bigger cities or metros get. I am confident that we will be able to discover the next big idea from a tier-3 or tier-4 town,” added Ritesh, who was chosen for the ”20 under 20” Thiel Fellowship when he was 19 years old. He was one of the first resident Asians to be accepted to this coveted fellowship, established by renowned venture capitalist Peter Thiel, to support innovative ideas to entrepreneurs under the age of 20.
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with Ritesh. He is currently on the board of MDI University and was the first Asian to receive the Thiel Fellowship, which shows his journey grounds up. I was one of his early supporters, and I am really happy to see his commitment to continue supporting students and young founders in India. His insights will prove tremendously valuable to entrepreneurs as we continue to execute our plan to build a robust infrastructure for startups in all the Tier 1,2,3 and 4 cities across India. His learnings will also help many upcoming entrepreneurs who have the potential to build the next Unicorn, but have very limited access to the right support and mentorship.” Dr Apoorv Ranjan Sharma, founder of Venture Catalysts said.
Dr Sharma, who has a PhD in incubation, is one of the founding fathers of India’s startup ecosystem since 2000. He pioneered the concept of incubation in the country and has established over a dozen incubators and accelerators before starting VCats in 2015.
VCats, which is now the world’s seventh-largest integrated incubator as per a ranking by Crunchbase of TechCrunch, is known for developing and nurturing early-stage startups. The Mumbai-based incubator has a deep presence in over 30 smaller Indian towns such as Jaipur; Raipur, Bhubaneswar, Vizag, Rajkot and Ahmedabad among others. VCats’ immense capability to spot the big idea in those towns and cities has resulted in the discovery of startups such as Beardo, BharatPe, Fynd, Supr, and Coutloot among others in various sectors ranging from FMCG to FinTech.