For a moment, imagine yourself in the shoes of Deep Kalra, the founder of travel website MakeMyTrip.
You start an India-focused internet startup long before India becomes the destination du jour for VCs worldwide, long before Indians get comfortable with transacting online.
You build a business over a decade, wading through policy changes, technology upheavals, market disruption, and take your online travel startup from idea to IPO.
You educate the market, evangelise the concept, and acquire your nearest competitor to become the veritable 800-pound gorilla in your space, while you watch your nearest peers die or become marginalised in a brutal market.
With such a stellar track record, you couldn’t be faulted for permitting yourself a pat on the back; a sense of having finally “made it”, right?
Because, right now, if you were Deep Kalra, you would be shuffling uncomfortably in your seat, looking nervously over your shoulder at a competitor that has seemingly come out of nowhere to threaten everything that you have worked for.
You would be worried about OYO Rooms.
Founded by Ritesh Agarwal, OYO Rooms is a budget hotel platform with a twist. Rather than just serving as an online aggregator for booking hotel rooms, OYO works with owners to upgrade hotel aspects such as WiFi, linen and toiletries to meet a prescribed standard that ostensibly offers a consistent standardised experience to guests. These hotels are emblazoned with the OYO brand to signal that promise. Over the last three years or so, OYO is said to have garnered nearly 150,000 rooms in India spread across 180 cities and claims to have a “70% market share” in its segment.
But surely, seeing a competitor garner traction in one segment in one market shouldn’t be that big a concern, right?
Normally, it wouldn’t be, but OYO is no normal competitor.
OYO recently raised $1 billion to fund expansion all over the globe. This round of funding reportedly valued the company at $5 billion—a valuation that is more than twice that of MakeMyTrip’s own current valuation of $2.4 billion.
But more importantly, OYO is not a normal competitor because it is not just a company. It represents something far larger. It represents a new way to fund and grow startups. It represents multinational conglomerate SoftBank and its $100-billion Vision Fund.
OYO is SoftBank’s Trojan Pig
What in the world is a Trojan Pig?
A Trojan Horse is a well-known metaphor – a war tactic of using subterfuge to mislead and defeat the opponent by disguising your true intent behind a seemingly benign facade. Unlike this metaphorical construct, a Trojan Pig is a literal dish of the ancient Roman empire.