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India's Small Towns Hotbeds Of Entrepreneurship: OYO CEO Ritesh Agarwal

Agarwal also stressed on the need to integrate the "very large rural mass" of India with the usage of technology and help generate income for the people living there.

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Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Group CEO, OYO Hotels and Homes File Photo

India's small towns have now become the hotbed of entrepreneurship fuelled by the aspirations of the young population and these, along with the scaling up of small businesses will play a key role in creating many unicorns in the country through the startup ecosystem, OYO Founder and Group CEO Ritesh Agarwal said on Thursday.

Speaking at the Global Unicorn Summit – Nurturing 1,000 Unicorns by 2030 -- jointly organised by CII with DPIIT, he also stressed on the need to integrate the "very large rural mass" of India with the usage of technology and help generate income for the people living there.

The rapid evolution of internet infrastructure, allowing cheap and quick distribution at scale, combined with access to capital provides the opportunity for a large number of small businesses in the country to scale up and become high quality sizable companies, he added.

"... The new young India that is building their businesses, is aspiring to build sizable world champions in the consumer segments that they operate," Agarwal said.

Laying out the value of small towns "in this big opportunity", he said, "I think small town India is now more exposed to the world than ever before... I think they are no more markets. They're actually hotbeds of new entrepreneurs getting created and they are not happy with just (being) in the tier two and tier three markets."

He further said, "They are coming for at least the entire national market and ideally for the world. So, there's a very structural shift that's happening in small town India."

Stressing on the need for onboarding villages in the shift that's happening, Agarwal said, "I think, in the entire conversation here, our country has a very large rural mass and the use of technology to integrate them can be quite significant."

Citing the example of OYO's partnership with villagers in Gujarat and Kashmir for homestays, he said, "We have enabled villages to be able to bring their houses online and then generate a substantial amount of income on the back of it."

Overall, he said a combination of the ecosystem and infrastructure, as well as a sense of motivation and promotion of entrepreneurship has created significant enablement for what he called "the Indian dream", as the country has always been entrepreneurial by design.

While in the past, various issues such as lack of capital, infrastructure, access to distribution have impeded scaling up of businesses despite Indians being entrepreneurial by design, Agarwal said in the "new world" those have been changed by the rapid evolution of internet infrastructure. It has allowed cheap and quick distribution at scale.

This, combined with that of the ability of making sure that capital becomes accessible and with all transactions moving towards digital, has fundamentally allowed a large number of these small businesses to scale and become into high quality sizable companies, he added.

"And my perspective is here, the new young India that is building their businesses is aspiring to build sizable world champions in the consumer segments that they operate," Agarwal said.

Stating that small businesses have been there a long time, he said, "This is an opportunity for us to scale them and that's in my view, a big opportunity ahead of ourselves and it will be a big funnel into our 1,000 unicorns outcome over a period of time."

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