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?

Not quite.

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.


Sumanth Raghavendra

Sumanth is a serial entrepreneur with more than eighteen years experience in running startups. He is currently the founder of Deck App Technologies, a Bangalore-based startup attempting to re-imagine productivity software for the Post-PC era. Sumanth’s columns appear regularly in leading publications. He holds MBA degrees from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, USA.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.