India’s OYO enters Japan in partnership with SoftBank

Fresh from closing a notable investment from Airbnb, India’s OYO has expanded its footprint into Japan. The move comes through a joint venture with investor SoftBank — which led OYO’s $1 billion round last year through its Vision Fund — which will cover hotel-based accommodation and home rentals.

Financial details around the joint venture were not disclosed. An OYO representative declined to go into details when asked.

OYO started in India, where it initially aggregated budget hotels; it has since expanded into China, Malaysia, Nepal, the U.K., the UAE, Indonesia, the Philippines and — now — Japan. China, in particular, has shown promise, with OYO’s room inventory there reportedly double what it is in India.

The evolution has not just been a geographical one. Its business has moved from a laser focus on the long-tail of budget hotels to a broader “hospitality” play. It now includes managed private homes and, in India, wedding venues, holiday packages and co-working — while its hotel supply is a mixture of franchised and leased. It has also advanced its focus from budget-minded consumers to cover business travelers, too.

The Japanese JV will be led by Prasun Choudhary, whom OYO describes as a founding member of its team. Like OYO business elsewhere in the world, the company is appealing to small and medium hotel franchises and owners. On the consumer side, its prime segment is domestic and international travelers who seek “budget to mid-segment hospitality,” to use part of a statement from OYO founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal, who is pictured in the image at the top of this post.

Agarwal is a Thiel fellow who started the company in 2011 when aged just 18. His original business, called Oravel, was an Airbnb clone that pivoted to become OYO. Today, that company is valued at $5 billion after raising more than $1.5 billion from investors.

SoftBank has previously struck joint ventures to bring other Vision Fund companies to Japan. Those include WeWork, Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing and India’s Paytm, which launched a payment service in the country.